Ofcom has imposed a price cap on 118 directory enquiry numbers after research revealed many callers are unaware of the significantly varied costs charged by different providers.
While the number of calls being made to 118 services has fallen by around 40% every year, more than a million people in the UK – many of them elderly – still use these services.
Research shows that consumers tend to call the numbers they most easily remember, despite the fact that switching provider could often save them money.
The regulator says the cost of an average 90-second call can range from £1 when calling the Post Office’s 118855 service to almost £20 when calling Telecom2’s 118004. The price charged by the most popular service – 118 118 – for a 90-second call is now £11.23.
Ofcom says is new maximum cap of £3.65 per 90 seconds will help customers save money by taking prices back to 2012 levels.
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.”