Half of 118 firms dearer than BT was

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The Independent Online

Only half of the top 30 telephone directory enquiries pro-viders in Britain charge less than the minimum cost of a service offered by BT when it enjoyed a monopoly in the sector, the regulator reported yesterday.

Only half of the top 30 telephone directory enquiries pro-viders in Britain charge less than the minimum cost of a service offered by BT when it enjoyed a monopoly in the sector, the regulator reported yesterday.

However, following Ofcom's study of the market, the watchdog concluded it did not need to "intervene" in the sector. The decision was condemned by some groups, with 192.com - an online provider of directory services - describing Ofcom's investigation as a "whitewash".

Directory enquiries services were liberalised in August last year. Ofcom found that competition was "beginning to drive down price". It also said there were signs of a "reasonable" level of consumer understanding of the services on offer.

"Immediate regulatory intervention by Ofcom in this important but young market would be premature and disproportionate," it said.

However, critics pointed out that the Ofcom research found a quarter of people were using the directory services less frequently now, with almost one in 10 giving up completely. The majority of consumers surveyed could name only one service provider, raising question marks about the level of competition in the market.

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