A Which? investigation has found three-quarters of the new directory enquiries services contacted are unable to answer simple enquiries correctly.
Which? researchers phoned 16 directory enquiries services five times each. Three residential numbers were requested – two with full addresses and one with the area only. Two business numbers were also requested and the researchers also asked to be connected to one of the residential numbers.
The investigation found that four of the enquiry services including One (118 811), Orange (118 000), The Number (118 118) and Share (118 499) got all five queries right. Of these, One was cheapest, with a flat rate service costing 30p regardless of call length, while The Number's average call cost was almost twice the price at 59p. Share's average call cost is 49p , it shares 5p with the British Red Cross and Barnado's.
Cable & Wireless Quickcall was found to have the worst service, supplying just one correct number out of five for a flat fee of 35p. Maureen was close behind, answering just two numbers fully. Taking an average of almost two minutes on each query, Maureen was also the most expensive service, with an average cost of 65p.
Researchers also found getting through to some services was as hard as getting the right number. Two researchers tried calling Maureen three times each but found that the number did not work. Researchers also had to abort one attempt to contact British Gas, BT, Cable & Wireless and Directory Enquiries UK for the same reason.
Helen Parker, editor of Which?, says: “Remembering what number to dial for directory enquiries is the least of your problems when it comes to using the new 118 services. Only a quarter of the services we contacted were able to answer all five of our queries correctly. Problems ranged from being given a wrong number to no number at all, and we were even cut off. This often poor service didn't come cheap, with call costs ranging from 20p to £1.10.”