118 118 fined £80,000 for misleading adverts

3 April 2014

Directory enquiries service 118 118 has been fined £80,000 by the premium-rate services regulator for failing to make its charges clear to consumers.

An investigation by PhonepayPlus found the company's bus and website adverts failed to comply with regulations, with its charges not displayed clearly enough for would-be customers.

This has led to callers suffering "bill shock", with the watchdog warning most 118 calls include a connection charge of between 50p and £4, and then a per-minute charge that can be up to £5.
As well as the substantial fine, PhonepayPlus also ruled that customers who had made a valid complaint before 3 April should be refunded, and reminded enquiry services of their obligations to include clear pricing information on any of their adverts.

In January, BT was fined £225,000 by the regulator over its 118 500 line also because of a lack of clear pricing.

Jo Prowse, PhonepayPlus' director of operations, said: "Consumers trust directory enquiries services and we want to help the industry keep it that way.

"Under our regulations, 118 services must tell consumers what the price is when they promote their services, and consumers that call directory enquiries should be able to get the number they are looking for without any unreasonable delay.

"These regulations exist to protect consumers and good business, and 118 providers must stick to them. This is an issue PhonepayPlus will continue to monitor closely."

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