BT blames regulator for 45% slump in 192 calls

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BT hit out at last month's opening up of the 192 directory enquiry service market, to dozens of other operators, provoking a row with the regulator, Oftel.

Pierre Danon, chief executive of BT Retail said a drop in the overall use of directory enquiry services since the shake-up "is mainly attributable to recent regulatory changes, and the resulting consumer confusion and concerns about price and quality".

He added: "This will not have been helped by the quality of some of the new service, which are far from an improvement on the 192 service customers have been used to. Deregulation of directory enquiry services, which was supposed to benefit consumers, appears to have had the opposite effect.".

The telecoms giant said the number of calls, from BT lines, to all 192 numbers was down 45 per cent, in the two weeks since switch-over on August 24, compared with the period last year.

Oftel, which implemented the change, denied consumers were confused. "Research showed that consumers were happy to see 192 replaced if it leads to more choice. This is what has happened, with seven of the 15 services cheaper than the old 192 service, and new features such as classified searching," the regulator said.