Directory inquiry services give wrong number to almost four in ten callers

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The Independent Online

Nearly four in 10 callers to 118 directory enquiry services are given the wrong number. Only 62 per cent of requests for British numbers are accurately dealt with, and just 37 per cent of those asking for international numbers are given correct information, a survey by Oftel shows.

Paul Whiteing, the deputy director of the phone watchdog Icstis, which helped carry out the survey, said: "I hope that this research will act as a spur to individual companies to improve the accuracy of their services. Those that don't risk losing their customers to other directory enquiry providers."

Worst offenders were 118 355, run by the communications firm Thus, which provided only 33 per cent of the correct numbers for residential numbers, and 118 119, run by, which got it right for only 43 per cent of customers wanting a British home number.

The 118 services have been heavily criticised since they replaced the old BT 192 number in August.

BT's new 118 500 number was accurate for 62 per cent of residential numbers and 71 per cent of business numbers. Directory Enquiries UK (118 800), which scored a success rate of 63 per cent for residential numbers, said many problems were caused by misspelt names on bills used to compile the database.

Researchers, who made more than 3,000 test calls in October, said that eight in 10 people who complained about wrong information were offered refunds. Nine out of 10 consumers are aware of the changes to directory enquiry services and 40 per cent had tried one of the new numbers.