In the days when only BT ran a directory enquiry service i.e. to look up phone numbers for you, it was free for a long time then people complained when a modest charge was introduced by BT.
Then the government opened it up to anyone and instead of competition driving down the price – the price went up and the tricks played by the new 118 firms (i.e. directory lookup services) led almost everyone to distrust the various 118 services and the adverts on TV didn’t help as they were designed to be memorable i.e. very annoying.
The charges for the most popular 118 services for a 60 second lookup call reached ridiculous levels e.g.
- 118 004 (Telecom2) £15.98
- 118 118 (TNUK) £8.98
- 118 212 (Maureen) £8.98
Whereas BT and the Post Office maintained more reasonable pricing
- 118 500 (BT) £2.32
- 118 555 (Post Office) £1.00
Some of the mobile phone providers offer free directory lookups for their customers.
BT also operates the free 195 directory enquiries number for people with disabilities. To sign up you call 0800 587 0195 to get the relevant form, that needs to be countersigned by a GP.
In 2018, the regulator got fed up with the rip-off prices and created a cap that took effect on 1st April 2019, bringing the charges back to 2012 levels. This meant a 90 second call would cost at most £3.65
Well done the regulator. Sometimes the free market fails to work properly and needs to be fixed.
Some of the services offer to connect you to the number you want, but beware – they make continue to charge you a premium rate per minute while you are connected to that number.
If possible, use Internet lookup to get phone numbers for free and always dial the number yourself to avoid additional charges.
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