|Consumers urged to dial '118' numbers for directory enquiries|
Oftel today encouraged all callers to directory enquiries to take advantage of the new 118 numbers in advance of the switch off of 192 on 24 August.
The new directory enquiries operators provide a choice of new services at a range of prices, some of which are half the price of existing 192 services.
The eight-month period of parallel running of 192 and the new 118 numbers will end on 24 August. From this date it will no longer be possible to access directory enquiry services on 192. Callers to 192 from a BT line and most other networks will hear a recorded message informing them of the changes and giving a freephone number for information on an appropriate 118 directory enquiry service.
Oftel's latest research shows that over 80 per cent of consumers are aware that there are a range of new numbers for directory enquiries. And up to 30 per cent of people dialling directory enquiries are already using the new numbers.
These figures suggest that consumers will adapt quickly to the changes when the 192 service ends.
Peter Waller, Deputy Director General of Telecommunications said today:
"The opening up of the directory enquiries market means that the consumer is no longer forced to use the service provided by their network operator whether or not they are happy with the level of service and the price.
"The fact that 30 per cent of callers are already using the new numbers shows that people are keen to make the change."
He added that with the choices now available to consumers there is a strong focus on making sure that prices are clearly advertised, and stressed that if in doubt consumers should speak to their telephone company:
"The range of new services available mean that consumers can make real savings on a directory enquiries call – but providers must be clear about the prices they are charging.
"Strict rules enforced by ICSTIS, the premium rate services regulator, mean that companies must display clear price information in their advertising or face tough sanctions, including fines.
"However, exactly as with 192, prices of calls will vary between networks – and you may well pay a different tariff for calling from your mobile than your fixed line for example. The key thing is, if in doubt, make a quick check with your telephone provider before you dial.
"Just as consumers have taken advantage of choice and competition in other areas of the telecoms market I am confident that they will do so with new directory enquiries services."
Peter Waller also drew attention to the range of consumer information available to help consumers to compare service and price:
"Clearly it will take consumers some time to understand which of the new services best meets their own needs. But consumers can get more information, and compare prices of new directory enquiries services, by visiting either www.newdirectoryenquiries.com or www.118info.org.uk, or using the leaflets being distributed with all new BT phonebooks."
Notes to editors
1. Since December 2002 consumers have been able to use a range of different directory enquiry services using numbers beginning 118 XXX. So far 40 companies have been granted permission to operate directory enquiries services by ICSTIS, with a range of features such as call completion and classified services.
2. Oftel's statement The future use of legacy directory enquiry numbers was published on 3 June 2003 and sets out the arrangements for for the handling of the legacy DQ numbers (192 for national directory enquiries and 153 for international directory enquiries) after the end of the parallel running period. The statement is available on Oftel's website at www.oftel.gov.uk/publications/consumer/2003/dq0603.htm.
3. The 195 service for customers unable to use a conventional phone book due to disability will remain unchanged.
4. All directory enquiries services must operate under the ICSTIS Code of Practice when they advertise their directory enquiries service. ICSTIS is the premium rate service regulator and has special rules about how pricing information should be displayed on advertisements to avoid consumer confusion. Complaints about directory enquiries services can be made to ICSTIS on 0800 500212 or by e-mail to email@example.com. Press calls should be made to Rob Dwight on 020 7940 7408.