diamond geezer

 Monday, August 25, 2003

118, got your number

Yesterday the old Directory Enquiries number was finally switched off. RIP 192, hello 118. BT's monopoly is over and there are a whole load of new competitors, all hoping we'll ring them whenever we're stuck for a telephone number... 118 000, 118 099, 118 111, 118 118, 118 119, 118 180, 118 247, 118 404, 118 499, 118 500, 118 511, 118 707, 118 811, 118 866, 118 877, 118 888.

Twice as many digits to remember as before, which is why we've been bombarded by expensive advertising campaigns trying hard to punch each number deep into our subconscious memory. What the adverts aren't so hot at telling us however is how much each service actually costs. There's a bewildering range of connection charges, costs per minute and minimum charges, and I doubt that most people using the new services will have any idea just how much they're being stung for. There's a very useful summary of all the services and charges here. Or why not just check out the diamond geezer consumer guide below?

Cheapest for a 30 second call: 118 247 (Yellow Pages) and 11 88 88 (both 20p)
...and the most expensive: 118 000 (Orange), 118 118 (The Number) (both 49p)
Cheapest for a one minute call: 11 88 88 (20p)
...and the most expensive: 118 118 (The Number) (58p)
Cheapest for a two minute call 118 811 (One) (30p)
...and the most expensive: 118 119, 118 180, 118 499 (all £1.75)

The one number to remember: 11 88 88 (20p per minute), the one with the cartoon superhero digits advert. Best value on all calls up to 1½ minutes.
The one number to avoid: 118 118 (49p + 9p per minute), the one with the 70s hairstyled runners. Probably the most successful ad campaign, but worst value on all calls up to 1 minute 9 seconds.
The most devious con-trick: BT is running two different numbers. It's heavily promoting the expensive 118 500 (30p + 25p per minute) and keeping distinctly quiet about the much cheaper flat-rate 118 707 (35p).
The cheapest alternatives: BT again, this time online where you're allowed ten free directory searches a day on their website. Or, of course, why not use one of those paper-based phone directories you have lying around at home (free).

The extra hidden charge: If you allow the operator to put you straight through to your desired number, it'll cost you more. BT's 118 500 charges 30p a minute for the duration of your new call, and 118 247 (Yellow Pages) as much as 40p a minute. Cheapest this time is 118 118 which charges 'only' 9p a minute.

The biggest rip-off: All of the charges above are for landlines only. If you want to use Directory Enquiries from your mobile (and, to be honest, that's when you're most likely to need to use it) then you may need to remortgage your house. All of the mobile companies have upped the price of calling anything 118 from their networks and are keeping very quiet about how nightmarishly expensive it is. Here's the geezer guide:

O2: The cheapest is 118 811 (One) (25p per minute), but most other services cost 65p per minute.
Vodafone: The cheapest is 118 500 (BT) (40p per minute), but for short calls avoid 118 118 (70p + 20p per minute).
Virgin: The cheapest is 11 88 88 (40p per minute), but both 118 500 and 118 118 will bleed you dry at 75p a minute instead.
T-mobile: No service costs less than 65p a minute (40p per minute), with 118 118 at 75p a minute and 118 000 (Orange) £1 a minute.
Orange: The cheapest is 118 000 (Orange) (surprise surprise) (59p + 30p per minute). Every other service costs at least 60p a minute for monthly contract customers, or £1 a minute if you're on pay-as-you-go.

Is it really worth us all suffering this confusing deregulated rip-off merely so that BT's 192 monopoly can be broken? I think we should all complain to Oftel. Why not ring them now on... erm...


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