118 is a Tragic Number

A couple of weeks ago, British Telecom lost its monopoly 192 phone directory service. Another ten companies stepped into its place, all starting with the numbers 118. Offtel’s argument being that competition would reduce costs and stimulate the market.

The first claim may or may not be true as the charging systems are so complex that it isn’t easy to work out, but it certainly feels more expensive. BT charged 40p for up to two numbers, but one of the new services charges 25p connection charge plus 30p a minute, so the charge is at least 55p whether they find the number or not.

The second claim that it would stimulate the market is untrue, at least in these early days. According to the news today, in the last two weeks there were 7.4 million calls down from 13.5 million for the same period last year.

Confusion over the new system is cited as the reason and that things will get back to normal once people get used to it. I wonder. Could it be that the new services just aren’t very good? The only time I have used it, I was after the number of the Immigration Department at Manchester Airport. I dialled the number and was greeted with, “Hello, Oldham Citizens’ Advice Bureau.”

Perhaps, like me, people are switching to the online directory!

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

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