THE cost of directory enquiry calls is to be capped at £3.65 per 90 seconds to protect consumers from ‘astronomical’ fees.
Ofcom is imposing the maximum price from April 1 after some providers were found to be charging almost £20 for an average 90 second call.
Many people using enquiry numbers — which all begin with 118 — are elderly, and in most cases did not know how much they were paying, according to the telecoms regulator.
Jane Rumble, Ofcom director of consumer policy, said: ‘Prices have risen in recent years and callers are paying much more than they expect.
‘Our evidence shows this is hurting people, with some struggling to pay their bills.’
Market leader 118 118 charged £11.23 for a 90-second call and people tend to call the numbers they most easily remember even when there are cheaper services available, the regulator said.
It estimates around 450,000 consumers a year are paying £2.4million in total more than they expect for these calls.
Minister for digital Margot James said: ‘It’s about time that this horrendous ripping off of customers was brought to an end.
‘The new price cap will go a long way in protecting consumers from astronomical fees, and is part of a series of measures we have worked on with Ofcom to secure a better deal for consumers.’
More than a million people in the UK -many of them elderly — still use the services, Ofcom said.
People aged 65 and over, who are significantly less likely to have internet access, are four times more likely to call 118 numbers than 16 to 34-year-olds.
Its research found that 65 per cent of 118 callers did not know how much calls cost and 42 per cent said they had no alternative to a directory enquiry service at that time.
Green light for ‘healthy’ cereal labels
COCO Pops or Crunchy Nut? That all-important breakfast decision could become easier as Kellogg’s adopts ‘traffic light’ labelling for its cereals.
The colour-coded system — which shows sugar, salt and fat levels per 100g — is aimed at helping consumers make healthier food choices. The labels will appear on cereal packs from January. The decision follows a survey of 2,000 people.
‘They said we should move to a full colour solution,’ said Kellogg’s UK managing director Oli Morton. ‘We’ve listened and now we’re acting.’ The system was introduced in 2013 on a voluntary basis, but Which? said this year giant manufacturers such as Kellogg’s were lagging behind.
Christmas jobs bring in lolly and the ivy
MORE than 20,000 festive jobs, including mince pie tasters, are still on offer for those looking to make extra cash this Christmas. Santa’s grotto actors remain in demand, as well as head elves and Christmas tree decorators, said jobs site Adzuna. The roles with the best hourly rate include out-of-hours GP (£120) and chef (£65), while production operative (£6.76) and Christmas bar staff (£7.17) offer the least. Adzuna’s Andrew Hunter said: ‘Even those without medical degrees or doctorates from Le Cordon Bleu can seek out some fun ways to rake in cash.’
■ EXPERIAN’S proposed acquisition of ClearScore could make the credit comparison market less competitive, the UK watchdog has said. The CMA fears the deal could discourage the firms from innovating or cutting prices.
■ HOME buyers seeking a bargain should head to Slough. Property site Zoopla found 3.32 per cent of homes for sale in the Berkshire town require work. Plymouth, Greenock and Bristol are also good for ‘fixer-uppers’.
■ A TOTAL of 428 staff at Morses Club are in line for an average £965 windfall after the doorstep lender announced a share incentive scheme. Employees must keep the shares for at least three years.
■ BREXIT turmoil continues to sap the London property market, says Telford Homes. The housebuilder has ‘work to do’ and must sell 60 homes to meet its £50million profit target this year, said boss Jon Di-Stefano.
■ SALES of alcohol-free Prosecco are soaring, led by demand from pregnant women and other booze-free drinkers. The market for low-alcohol wines has increased tenfold since 2009, said the Wine and Spirit Trade Association.