Thus pulls 118 service after poor Oftel survey

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The Independent Online

Thus, the telecoms and data services group, yesterday became the first operator to pull out of the troubled 118 directory inquiries market, which was deregulated earlier this year.

The 118 services have been dogged by controversy since they launched in the summer with customers regularly being given wrong numbers and operators failing to disclose charges properly.

Thus has pulled its 118355 service after a survey by Oftel, the telecoms regulator, found it answered only 33 per cent of enquiries for residential numbers accurately. Inquiries for business numbers were answered correctly 61 per cent of the time. The Oftel survey found that, overall, 60 per cent of calls to directory inquiries services were answered correctly.

Bill Allan, the chief executive of Thus, said: "I am not willing to be bottom of the tree when it comes to quality. I am not willing to risk my reputation with something like this. We are extremely concerned and disappointed by the results of the Oftel survey. As a consequence we have reviewed our outsourcing arrangements and decided to withdraw the 118 service that is offered on our behalf by an outside supplier."

Mr Allan declined to name the third party company that provided its service because of a confidentiality agreement. He said the company had not actively promoted the service to its small number of residential customers and had provided it for business customers.

The company said its 118 service handled about 25,000 calls a month, only a small percentage of the number made to 118 services. Thus customers who were using its 118 service will now be directed to one of the alternative suppliers.

Conduit, the Irish company that owns the heavily promoted 11 88 88 service, made 250 people redundant shortly after it opened for business in August and more jobs are understood to be under threat.

The most recent figures show that The Number, which operates the 118 118 service has taken a 38 per cent share of the directory inquiries market compared with BT's 24 per cent with 118 500.