deal will make dialling easier

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The Independent Online
SCOOT.COM, the former Talking Pages, will today announce a deal with Energis, the telecoms group, which will enable customers to be put through to the desired business straight away without having to hang up and dial again.

The deal will also enable Scoot to charge companies directly each time a customer accesses their phone number through its database. Analysts say the deal could be worth an extra pounds 21m a year in revenue for Scoot.

The level of the charge will depend on the value of business being generated: estate agents, for example, will be charged more per "hit" than, say, plumbers, to reflect the fact that each inquiry is potentially more valuable.

Robert Bonnier, Scoot's chief executive, said that the attraction for business subscribers is that they will able to see directly which users are coming to them through Scoot. Ultimately, they will see the amount they pay vary according to whether it is genuinely generating business.

"The introduction of the Scoot Connect product is an important step towards facilitating a direct transaction between Scoot users and Scoot business subscribers," said Mr Bonnier.

Scoot estimates that up to 40 per cent of people calling its inquiry services would opt to be put straight through.

Later on, it is intended to change the charging structure. The one- off fee to business subscribers will be eased out and a higher proportion of what they pay will be on the basis of business generated through inquiries via Scoot.

As part of the deal, Energis will also supply Scoot with telecoms service, while business subscribers will be able to phone using Energis's network at lower cost. Scoot hopes that ultimately its product will be able to be bundled with other services such as mobile phones and computers.

Scoot is quoted on both the London Stock Exchange and Nasdaq, the American exchange.