Pensioner billed over £80 for single directory enquiries call

As Which? highlights high charges

Carol Sandford of Ballantrae has received her telephone bill from Talk Talk, which includes a 24 minute call to directory enquiries 118 118 for �81.12.

An Ayrshire pensioner has been shocked to be charged more than £80 for a single directory enquiries call.

Carol Sandford, 72, called 118 118 from her mobile phone, without realising the charge she'd incur. While calls to the number cost £1.88 per call plus £2.57 per minute from a landline, TalkTalk bumps that up to £5.68 for the first minute and £3.28 for each minute after that.

When she queried the charge with TalkTalk, says Carol, she was told that the £81.12 charge was valid; its only concession was to allow her to pay over three months.

However, 118 118 was more generous, Carol tells the Daily Record.

"TalkTalk portrayed themselves as helpful, but now I'm not so sure," she says. "At least 118 118 have responded and they will repay the whole charge, including the bit TalkTalk added on."

A spokesman for 118 118 told the Record: "We're dedicated to ensuring all our customers have an excellent experience when using our service and we operate a robust refund policy, particularly concerning more vulnerable customers."

According to Which?, the cost of calling directory enquiries from a landline has quadrupled over the last six years. Earlier this month, BT was ordered to refund customers after it emerged some had run up huge bills because they had no idea they were being charged £2.39 a minute by the 118 500 enquiries line.

However, the cost of calls from mobiles is even worse.

Calls via O2 and Three to 118 118 and 118 500 can cost as much as £5 for the first minute and £5 for each part-minute thereafter, meaning it's possible to end up with a £10 bill for a 61-second call.

And if you allow the directory services company to connect you itself, prices can go even higher, says Which? researcher Jon Barrow.

"One Which? member told us that they'd had to pay £27 on three separate occasions for calls he'd made from his mobile phone," he says.

"He'd asked the 118 provider to connect the calls for him, which was especially infuriating as they would've been covered by the free minutes in his phone package had he dialled them himself."

Talk Talk declined a request to comment from the Record.

This summer, Ofcom will introduce a new system aimed at making the price of 118 services clearer. The idea is that phone companies will have to make their 'access' charge clear to customers on their bills, while 118 companies will specify their service charge wherever they advertise it.

However, Which? says this doesn't go far enough, and is calling for providers to do more to set out their costs at the time a call is made, and then let customers end the call without charge if they're not happy.

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