Tariff chaos looms as 192 scrapped

Companies' network costs will soar following the shake-up of the directory enquiry service unless telecoms managers impose strict...

Companies' network costs will soar following the shake-up of the directory enquiry service unless telecoms managers impose strict controls on how staff use the service, an industry association has warned.

BT's 192 directory enquiry service closed last week and about 20 new services - all prefixed with the number 118 - have been established in its place.

The new services offer more than 400 different tariffs. Call costs vary according to which provider you call from: calling from some mobile lines could cost up to £2.50 a minute.

The Communications Management Association believes the deregulation of the market is unnecessary and will make it harder for network and communication managers to contain call costs and maintain service standards across an organisation. "We share the general dismay at the initial chaos and the confusion of tariffs, which is leaving customers without any clear idea of what they are letting themselves in for," said David Harrington, former director general of the association.

According to Cable & Wireless figures, calls to directory enquiries can contribute up to 4% of phone bills, so users need to be aware of the potential hidden costs of using 118 services and the complications this can cause.

"For the business user, all telecoms managers can hope to do is take a specific contract out with one supplier and/or bar calls to all except one central service.

"Hopefully the confusion will be short-term and the market will shake out," Harrington said.

Ovum analyst Jan Dawson added, "The changes will cause a lot of confusion to those using directory enquiries. Employees will just go with what they know or have seen advertised.

"The key thing is to find out exactly what you will be charged and what is the best value for your company. Look at old bills and find out what people use directory enquiries for," Dawson advised.

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