This Statement concerns the use and regulation of 118 numbers. These are telephone numbers that are used exclusively for directory enquiry (DQ) services.
Prices for calls to DQ services on the 118 range have risen significantly in recent years. In May 2017, Ofcom opened a Call Cost review to examine the rising cost of calling DQ services to ensure that prices are fair and transparent for consumers.
In this Statement we set out the decisions we have made to protect consumers from the harm we have identified.
What we have decided – in brief
- Prices for some DQ services are high and have risen steeply in recent years. The most well-known DQ service is 118 118 and its prices have risen four-fold for a one-minute call since Q4 2012. It now costs £8.98 for any call up to one minute in length, and £13.47 for a two-minute call. Some other providers charge more than £20 for a two-minute call.
- Consumers don’t know how much calls cost and say they have no alternative. Ofcom has found that 65% of users said they did not know the cost of calling a DQ service when they last called and 40% of users said they had no alternative options to using DQ services at the time of making the call.
- The combination of high prices and poor price transparency means that many users are charged more than they expected to pay. Our research shows that nearly 40% of DQ users (equating to 450,000 individuals) said they were charged more than they expected. High prices mean some consumers struggle to pay their bill.
- We have decided to impose a price cap on the amounts DQ providers can charge of £3.65 (inclusive of VAT) per 90 seconds. A cap at this level will bring prices closer to what consumers expect to pay. It will protect consumers by reducing bill shock and improve the affordability of DQ services.
This overview is a simplified high-level summary only. The decisions we have taken and our reasoning are set out in the full document.