BT DIRECTORY ENQUIRIES ABERDEENTelephone directory entry entitlement bullet advertiser information bullet. BT's directory inquiry services, 192 and 153, have stopped giving out telephone numbers after 46 years. Callers now hear a recorded message with a freephone number that selects at random the number of one of the more than 20 replacement services, which all begin with 118. Telecoms watchdog Oftel, which is behind the change, says it will mean improved value for the ?300m callers spend on 700 million calls to the service every year. But while one of BT's competitors is offering nearly a million registered customers free directory inquiry calls, a leading mobile phone company is charging up to ?2.50 a minute.
Consumers' Association senior researcher Jenni Conti is urging Oftel to inform callers about the different tariffs. Reports suggest Britain's directory enquiries market, the largest in Europe, could be worth up to ?1.3bn within three years.
And as companies jostle for their share of the pie, research suggests BT's own 118 offering is falling lower on callers' radar screen. The Number, owned by the US call centre group InfoNXX, has very noisily sought to create a distinctive brand, with its two moustached 118 runners campaign on television, billboards, ice-cream vans throughout the UK and a T-shirt campaign through the Cancer Research charity. Ms Harris said the comic campaign is making a potentially uninteresting product a saleable commodity. The Number has a marketing budget of ?20m for the year, almost half of which it is spending in August and September. The majority is being spent on a large television campaign involving the runners - and the supposedly 'old hat' 192 service. BT is responding by spending its ?10m marketing budget on reinforcing a 'tried and tested' brand. Mr Lubin conceded, however, that the onslaught of 118 competitors has already forced the group to reduce staff numbers in its call centres.


The Number has concentrated its efforts on the run-up to 24 August while BT is focusing on customers after the switch.
Research from consultants Deloitte & Touche also suggests the attack on BT's pricing policy is unfounded by a number of competitors.
A crackdown on directory enquiry a€?rip-offsa€™ is being launched by regulator Ofcom from next month, with demands that providers be more open about charges. Two companies a€“ The Number UKa€™s 118 118 and BTa€™s 118 500 a€“ have a stranglehold on the market, handling 80 per cent of calls despite there being 400 other enquiry providers, which all use the six-digit numbers starting with 118.
For example, Vodafone users pay a minimum of A?3 a minute for connection to a 118 phone line.
For example, call The Number UKa€™s 118 118 and it will cost A?2.58 for a minute but on its a€?no-frillsa€™ one-call no-connection 118 811 service you can get the same information for only 50p a€“ and if you can put up with listening to an advert it is free. We also offer cheaper and free services, but these are basic no-frills deals without advertising costs.a€™ BT said its prices were in line with the industry average and that the majority of calls to 118 500 were less than a minute. It said it offered call connection as an extra service and that operators advised customers of the cost of the call when connecting them.
Can I keep the price off those websites that allow you to look up what homes have been sold for? It's as fast as a Lamborghini, as luxurious as a Jaguar and doesn't use a drop of petrol, but can a Tesla Model S get to Wales and back? SIMON LAMBERT wonders if super-low interest rates call this stock piece of financial wisdom into question. Research group Millward & Brown has suggested consumer awareness of the different numbers from March to July has shifted considerably in the runners' favour.
The Number UK a€“ owned by US directory enquiries provider kgb a€“ demands a flat 79p plus A?1.79 a minute or part-minute. Furniture dealer Charlotte Goldsworthy, 27, of Chelsea, Central London, says: a€?The way these directory enquiry firms charge bamboozles me.


It has adopted its name from the single a€?192a€™ directory enquiries service that was axed in 2003, when customers paid just 40p per enquiry. In fact the company can provide hard-to-find numbers listed in publicly-available databases. There is a built in handsfree speaker and a headset socket with separate buttons to answer calls. I used to use them all the time but it was only when I stopped a year ago that I realised what a rip-off the service was a€“ it added A?100 a month to my phone bills. Down the right hand side of the BT Converse 2300 is 10 speed dial buttons for extra quick dialling.
Customers pick up the tab on their phone bill.a€™ Ofcom says the market needs shaking up and next month it will unveil plans to simplify charging.
A PhonepayPlus spokesman says: a€?It is important that consumers understand what they are being charged and are clear about the service they are paying for. Ofcom says: a€?The biggest players in the market are the most memorable a€“ but that doesna€™t necessarily mean they are the best value. One of the biggest problems is that customers do not have a clear understanding of how much they are being charged in connection fees, directory enquiry call rates and the fee levied by the phone provider a€“ we want to make this transparently clear.a€™ Ofcom says that it will force phone companies to show a breakdown of all directory enquiry charges on bills rather than present a lump sum total. William Ostrom, a spokesman for The Number UK, says: a€?We already clearly advertise our directory enquiry charges, but if future changes are required we will conform.
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