On the back of a steep rise in the cost of directory enquiry calls, British telecoms regulator Ofcom has announced a new price cap on 118 phone numbers. The watchdog is aware that some providers currently charge almost GBP20 (USD25.6) for an average 90-second call, while the price for a 90-second call to the most popular service – 118 118 – is currently GBP11.23. Ofcom acknowledges that there are cheaper services available, but said its research indicates that consumers tend to call the numbers they most easily remember. Further, while the number of calls being made to 118 services has declined by around 40% each year, it says that more than a million people in the UK – many of them elderly – are still using such services and that the cost of calling is ‘now well above what people expect to pay’. As a result, Ofcom will cap the maximum amount a 118 service can charge at GBP3.65 per 90 seconds, bringing the price back to 2012 levels. To allow providers time to adjust their prices and billing systems, the regulator has ordered the price cap to come into force on 1 April 2019.
Jane Rumble, Ofcom’s Director of Consumer Policy, said of the regulator’s decision to cap prices: ‘Directory enquiry prices have risen in recent years, and callers are paying much more than they expect. Our evidence shows this is hurting people, with some struggling to pay their bills … We’re taking action to protect callers by capping 118 prices.’