With what seems like every passing year, the telecoms operator Ofcom announces another review into the cost of premium rate services in the UK.
After ‘cleaning up’ the state of 0845 and 0871 numbers in 2015 with its ‘UK Calling’ campaign, Ofcom has now set its sights firmly on those operating ‘directory enquiry’ style services. You know, the 118 118 guys.
But it’s not just the lovable moustache-wearing men in short shorts that should be worried, Ofcom is taking aim at the entire market after it found some consumers were being charged up to £10.50 per call.
That’s right. In fact, arguably the most well-known of the directory services, 118 118, charges a minimum of £8.98 every time you dial their number. That’s before you’ve even spoken to anyone.
That’s a far cry from the old 192 service on offer from BT, who were at the time the only provider of a directory service. A call to find out the number for your local Chinese restaurant would cost you just 40p for the privilege.
If we look at the boys in red and white, then we’ll see that they charge just under £9 as a connection charge, followed by £4.50 per minute for the length of the call. So if you boldly say ‘yes’ when you’re asked if you want to have your call connected, brace yourself for a bill just under £32 for five minute takeaway order. (And that’s before you’ve added on any food.)
Service Charges and Access Charges
What makes matters worse is that your network operator will also add on their share of profit to the call. So if you’re using a BT landline or similar, this will cost you an extra 11 pence per minute.
If you’re using Vodafone for instance, they will add on an extra 55 pence per minute just for the pleasure of connecting your call.
The amount charged by your network operator, whether that’s BT, Sky or Virgin on your landline or Vodafone, O2 or EE on a mobile, is called the ‘access charge’. This is an amount set by Ofcom when they ‘simplified’ the charges around calling non-geographic numbers back in 2015. This is unregulated, and the company you use for your telephone line can charge you whatever you like.
The other side of the coin is known as the ‘service charge’. This is what the company that you’re calling has decided to charge you, in consultation with whoever they got their telephone number from.
Unlike the 084 and 087 numbers that Flower Telecom provides, capped at a consumer-friendly service charge of 7 pence and 13 pence per minute respectively, the directory enquiries companies do not face the same level of regulation.
It’s this important fact that has led Ofcom to launch a review into 118 services.
There are currently over 400 different directory enquiries services operating in the UK. Due to the lack of regulations, any of them can charge up to a maximum of £24 for a call that lasts less than a minute.
Ofcom has also launched an enquiry into the cost of 070 ‘personal’ numbers. Often mistaken for mobile numbers, these services don’t come out of your bundled minutes like you would expect. Instead, they can cost up to 55 pence per minute from some service providers (e.g. Vodafone).
If you have any queries about how much it costs to call a telephone number, particularly one of your Flower Telecom numbers, then don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Remember, if it starts 01, 02 or 03, it’s included in your monthly minute bundle – no matter what!