118 – your unlucky number
Calling directory enquiries to find a number is ineffective and expensive. The services – which all start with the number 118 – were deregulated in 2003, when BT offered the service for just 40p. A range of operators entered the market. Prices rocketed and tariffs became insanely complicated, with access fees, service fees and minimum charges all to be calculated.
The biggest services are 118 118 (minimum cost at the time or writing £6.98) and 150 (minimum £4.44); if you agree to their kind offer to connect you, you will continue to pay a premium rate for the entire call. Ten minutes could cost you £50.
Avoiding these charges is simple: Google the number. It’s faster and more accurate than any of these services. Or if you must – find out what your own network charges its users. It’s bound to be less.
And then there’s 0800 118 3733. It’s terrible, and you have to listen to an advert. But it is, yes, absolutely free.
I’ve seen companies whose employees have racked up hundreds of pounds a month researching numbers they could have found for free. Any modern phone system will enable you to block all premium numbers – do it now, and train your staff to use their computers or smartphones instead.