Watch out for directory enquiry rip-off charges

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The telecoms regulator, Ofcom, is going to cap the amount that directory enquiries can charge. The cap won’t come in until the end of the year.

Directory enquiry rip-off charges

At the moment, there’s no cap on the amount that directory enquiries services can charge. Calls can cost over £15 – or hundreds of pounds if you’re connected to the number you’ve asked for. Now, Ofcom is planning to cap the charge of calling directory enquiries at around £3 for a 90 second call. An Ofcom spokesperson said: “We’re concerned about rising prices for directory enquiries, and callers paying much more than they expect. So we’re taking action to protect consumers by proposing a cap on the cost of 118 numbers.”

Directory enquiries providers

There are over 400 directory enquiry services and there’s no easy way of comparing the costs. They generally charge a flat fee (a service charge), then a per-minute charge on top. If you’re connected to the call via the directory enquiries service, you’ll pay another charge. For each minute of that call, you could be charged up to £7.99. If you have to use directory enquiries, never let them connect you to the number or you’ll be paying a small (or large) fortune.

What calls can cost

The one-off service charges vary from 80p to £15.98 (118004, operated by Telecom 2 and 118900 operated by Numbers Direct are among those that charge the most). The per-minute costs vary from 25p to whopping £7.99 a minute (118004 and 118900 again).

If you’re calling from a mobile, your mobile network provider can levy its own charge (it’s called an access charge) of up to 55p a minute on top.

Directory enquiries for free

One of the biggest directory enquiries providers has a free number, as well as one you pay for. It’s called The Number (confusingly!) and it’s 0800 118 3733. In return for getting directory enquiries for free, you have to listen to an advert. The process is automated as well – so you won’t speak to a person, but if that doesn’t bother you, you can save a lot of money. 

You can also use sites like or from your computer or smartphone. They are free to use, although charges for ‘premium results’, which includes things like addresses from the Electoral Register.

Free directory enquiries if you’re with Virgin Media

If you have a Virgin Media home phone, you can call 118 180 up to ten times a day completely free of charge. I’m not aware of any other phone provider that offers free directory enquiries calls.

Free directory enquiries if you’re partially sighted

If you’re partially sighted, you can use a free directory enquiries number, 195. You have to fill in a form to register for it (get your GP to sign the form to confirm that you have restricted vision). You don’t have to be a BT customer to use the service.

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What can you do to stop nuisance calls and cold callers?

What ombudsman schemes are there – who can you complain to?

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