back to article BT 118 phone number fee howler lands telco giant with £225k fine

BT has been slapped with a £225,000 fine from Blighty's premium-rate phone line watchdog, after it failed to provide correct pricing details for its 118 500 directory enquiries number. Some of the 27 complainants, who took their gripes to PhonePayPlus (which previously rejoiced in the catchy name of “Independent Committee for …

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I'm amazed people use premium rate numbers

No, it's not because I live in a big city with somewhat ubiquitous 3G coverage. Rather that why can't those who do just call a friend who has internet access or just plan in advance?

It's not like phone calls are expensive.

I know, certain segments of the population don't have internet access, and certain areas don't have a good bit of (mobile) phone coverage, but that's why they invented a good old phone book. been working quite well for a few decades.

I am guessing that this is based on fixed line rentals for much of the above.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I'm amazed people use premium rate numbers

I've used 118 on a number of occasions. Usually when trying to sort something out for the car at the side of the road/dealers forecourt (insurance and the AA mainly) when I didn't have the number, much easier and quicker to get someone else to text you the correct number than searching the net for it. And a hell of a lot easier than carting a phone book around even if you can get a country wide version that fits in anything smaller than a transit.

But having an £81 bill for it!! that's just utter madness, who ever did that doesn't need a refund, they need a lobotomy instead.

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WTF?

@AC

"much easier and quicker to get someone else to text you the correct number than searching the net for it"

Really? In the time it would take to "phone a friend" and have them search, I've probably found the number, dialled it and dealt with the automated "press 1 for sales, 2 for accounts, ..." and reached a human being who isn't authorised to solve my problem.

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Megaphone

Re: I'm amazed people use premium rate numbers

The £81 bill is actually easy to achieve. When you get your number, they ask if you want to be connected. They don't always make it clear that you're still paying £1.50 upwards a minute in the call after they connect you. An absolutely disgusting tactic.

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Re: I'm amazed people use premium rate numbers

Even if you do have the regular phone directory handy, it only covers the nearest two towns these days anyway, long gone are the county-wide phone directories - probably to encourage people to dial 118!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I'm amazed people use premium rate numbers

Totally agree with you but AFAIK all the directory companies do just the same especially those annoying Dave Bedford lookalikes from 118118

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Silver badge

Re: I'm amazed people use premium rate numbers

They don't always make it clear that you're still paying £1.50 upwards a minute in the call after they connect you. An absolutely disgusting tactic.

There used to be (still is?) a service called Scoot, aimed primarily at mobiles (back in the good old days of 192). I remember using them to get the number of a motorcycle spares shop, and being asked if I wanted to be connected "at just 1p a second".

My first thought was 'awesome, calls are 2p a minute normally', until a second or two after saying yes, my brain re-parsed the sentence to identify that it was 60p a minute. Quickly hung up and dialled the number myself.

Struck me at the time that whilst they were being honest about their pricing, it was a bit of a shady tactic to quote the charge price in seconds just to make it sound a lot lower than it was.

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Paris Hilton

Re: I'm amazed people use premium rate numbers

@AC "And a hell of a lot easier than carting a phone book around"

Odd I just use the phone book function on my phone

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Alert

Re: I'm amazed people use premium rate numbers

Rather that why can't those who do just call a friend who has internet access or just plan in advance?

Because it would annoy their friends?

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Re: I'm amazed people use premium rate numbers

"Even if you do have the regular phone directory handy, it only covers the nearest two towns these days anyway"

Unless you live in Aberdeen, which covers Aberdeen City and Orkney and Shetland Islands, rather than the immediate area of Aberdeenshire.

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Gold badge

I'm sure of one thing that BT aren't guilty of. They didn't deliberately hide information on their website.

This is because it's impossible to find any information on their website. Especially if you're specifically looking to find something. It's one of the worst websites that I regularly use. I've never been able to determine if this is deliberate obfuscation or not, but my general inclination is to put it down to the usual incompetence...

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Trust me - it IS deliberate obfuscation...

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Holmes

@Boldman

I think you'll find that it's actually BT's best effort at helpfulness.

It's just their incredible level of incompetent boobery that makes it look like obfuscation.

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Anonymous Coward

BT apologises for the breaches of the Code of Practice which were due to oversights and different interpretations of the code rather than any attempt to mislead customers.

Yes, we get it. It's never your dildo.

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Pint

Can we have 192 back? No problems with this 118 XXX crap then. As I put it at the time:

192 we must now all ignore.

118 comes to mind - then no more.

Each time I see the ad

(and it's driving me mad)

The rest of it's different, I'm sure.

Indeed, can we go one step further and restore 192 as it was pre-1993? No problems with payment, billing, T&C's and any other such crap then.

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Yes please, can we go back to one information source, who would charge you whatever they fancied, allow you one inquiry per phone call, and often not have the right information anyway.

The 118 prices (all of them) seem overpriced to me, but then everything phone related has gone up massively since then, eg 5 minute local payphone call was 10p, now minimum charge is 50p. Directory service used to be about 50p, its now around £2.

The biggest rip is if the 118 service asks if you want to be connected to the number, you could be looking at almost £2/minute.

PS: 192.com

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Facepalm

@Blue Eyed Boy

192 was abolished in the name of competition (it was perceived that simply allowing other operators to offer equivalent services was not good enough, when everyone "knew" 192).

Personally, with the rise in ubiquity of the internet in your pocket, I'd expect the overall income across all the 118 operators to be falling off a cliff.

In much the same way that Hibu (yes, really), the owners of Yellow Pages, have recently gone into administration (their corporate rebranding can't have helped).

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Quite. We used to have one number, easy to remember, which was free.

"Competition rules" decreed that that was apparently no good to the consumer.

So we had to have instead lots of different numbers, each of which had differing ways of charging, so in fact it was probably impossible for the consumer to be anything other than confused, and very probably pay over the odds.

But in the mad world of free marketeers, it's competition. And that always works in the best interests of the consumer. So it's clearly better.

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Re: @Blue Eyed Boy

Yellow Pages - they were in a perfect position to be very strong, possibly dominant, in business search on the early Internet but were absolutely clueless and seemed to have little desire to do anything other than fleece existing dead-tree customers as much as possible.

It also felt like every time they did anything it was too intentionally hobbled and too late and generally worse than what they had before and always worse than anything else available. The old BBS / telnet version was a lot better than yp.com, which was better than yell.com and however many countless iterations those went through...

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MSE

Have a read of http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/phones/directory-enquiries-free.

118 390 costs 33p per call.

0800 118 3733 is a free version run by the 118 188 people

195 is still totally free if you have a disability or can't use the phone book

If you have a really old mobile phone, wap.thephonebook.com is still running!

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"Quite. We used to have one number, easy to remember, which was free."

I don't remember it being free? But I remember it being a lot bloody cheaper than the services that were introduced to make it cheap.

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I don't remember it being free?

IIRC correctly it was 60p a call (just before the breakout of the 118's).

Now, most seem to be in the region of 60p a call + 60p a minute. So yeah, IMHO the consumer has definitely lost out.

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It was free from a phone box. I may be a tightarse for doing so, but I remember popping down the road (only 4 doors down) to the phone box to call directory enquiries more than once.

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It was free until 1991. (2nd April, according to http://www.britishtelephones.com/histuk.htm)

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Quite. We used to have one number, easy to remember, which was free.

Directory Services was never free, and whilst we had one number (two actually, 153 for international inquiries), each operator had their own system with different levels of quality and cost.

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@ I don't remember it being free?

It was before 1993 - hence my comment about restoring the pre-1993 version in my previous post.

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"we are happy to continue to do so"

"they can pry it from our cold dead hands"

Fixed.

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With so many screen sizes, widescreen, 4:3, mobile etc. what now defines 'below the fold'?

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Silver badge

Easy

Use javascript to resize an image until the legally required information is below the fold.

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Ofcom , 118 , 192 ... I can handle all that crap. Just ban NON geographic numbers. PLEASE.

I've got most of the numbers I want in my smart phone's memory, and look up others up via the smart phone web browser. If I can't look it up on my smart phone well I don't have a signal, so I can't call anyway.

What really bugs me are all the Non geographic numbers that AREN'T INCLUDED in my inclusive minutes.

Even my Doctors and children's school has non-geographic numbers, fortunately I've got the geographic numbers for them, not that they willingly publish them.

There seems to me very few services that can justify non-geograhic phone numbers, other than they want to rip me off for as much as they can, which I guess is a captilist article of faith. I just wished OFCOM would BAN the majority of non-geographic numbers now.

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Happy

Re: Ofcom , 118 , 192 ... I can handle all that crap. Just ban NON geographic numbers. PLEASE.

@Karl H

Don't forget to http://saynoto0870.com/ :-)

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Re: Ofcom , 118 , 192 ... I can handle all that crap. Just ban NON geographic numbers. PLEASE.

I'm sure Neelis Kroes et al are working on those NGNs for you.

Most GOV departments have implemented 03 numbers, which are included.

If you own an 0845 number, you can claim the equivalent 0345 number for free IIRC

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Directory enquiries? I haven't used it since I was a kid... and I'm 36.

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WTF?

Calls to 118 500/404 cost 59p per call plus £2.39 per minute

That is £2.98 per enquiry

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MJI
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last itme I used directory enquiries

I used 192

If someone asked me to try a 118 I would try 118 192 first then 118 000 then work up from that.

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Re: last itme I used directory enquiries

118000 is operated by Orange and is expensive....

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Transparency

What's certain is that in recent decades BT charges have never been transparent. My own reaction is very simple -- never use a BT service if one can avoid it -- you're going to be rooked sooner or later by them.

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Anonymous Coward

automatic

"but also ordered to reimburse, within 28 days, any customers who demanded a refund"

Why not get BT to automatically refund all those who called whilst the information published was misleading ? surely their billing system is capable of this ?

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Busted, he he he.

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Unhappy

BT 118 phone number fee scam lands customers with £225k gouge

FTFY

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