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Ofcom announces cap on 118 number charges

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Ofcom is to cap the price of calls to directory enquiry services at £3.65 per 90 seconds – a higher level than it previously proposed.

The regulator said it would protect consumers, with some currently charged almost £20 for a typical call of that length.

Ofcom research found those aged 65 and over were four times more likely to call 118 numbers than those aged 16-34 and were significantly less likely to have internet access when looking for a number.

It launched a review of the services in 2017 and earlier this year proposed a cap of £3.10 per 90 second call, but has raised this following consultation with industry.

The characters from the 118 118 adverts pose outside the venue during the first ever Tacheback party at the Elbow Rooms in Islington on October 8, 2003 in London. The party was the finale of the first ever Tacheback month where men were asked to grow mostouches in aid of the mens cancer charity Everyman.(Photo by Bruno Vincent/Getty Images)
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118 118 is the most popular service

Ofcom said around 450,000 consumers were paying £2.4m in total more than they expected to pay for 118 calls, with some left struggling to pay their bills.

The number of calls to directory enquiries has been falling sharply, from more than seven million in the third quarter of 2014 to less than two million in the second quarter of 2017.

But Ofcom said more than a million people in the UK – many of them elderly – still use them.

It said the most popular service, 118 118, currently charges £11.23 for a 90-second call.

Ofcom said that although there are cheaper services available, its research showed that people tended to call the numbers they most easily remember.

The six-digit numbers beginning with 118 were first launched in 2002 to replace the previous 192 system.

At the time it was said the new numbers would help improve directory services and drive down costs through competition, but charges have since soared.

The cap will come into force from April next year.

Jane Rumble, Ofcom’s Director of Consumer Policy, said: “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. This will significantly cut the cost of many calls, and bring them back to 2012 levels.”

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