Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland family's shock at cost of directory enquiry calls

Image caption There are more than 400 operators in the UK that provide directory enquiry services

A Northern Ireland family has spoken of their shock at the cost of some directory enquiry calls, after a telephone bill this month came up at almost twice its normal cost.

Robin Taggart said there were two calls of five seconds when his mother Joan was charged almost £10, while another at two seconds cost more than £5.

He said he was "furious" when he came across the bill.

"It felt like my mother had been legally mugged," he added.

"In the old days, directory enquiries was run as part of your telephone service, there wasn't a huge extra bill associated with it.

"For someone in my mum's case she is going to think about ringing directory enquiries because that is naturally what she would have done in the past."

Mr Taggart said his mother had made calls lasting two minutes 11 seconds on one morning which came to a total of £45.

Joan said she was stunned at the bill she received.

Image caption Robin Taggart with his mother Joan who was stunned at the telephone bill she received

Ironically, she had been looking for the number of someone who could deal with nuisance sales calls.

Siobhan Harding of Citizens' Advice NI said that people are "confused about these numbers and they do not realise that when they are calling 118 or directory enquiries they are calling a premium rate number".

She said if people felt a company had not made charges clear that it was a premium rate number, they can contact the Phone-paid Services Authority and make a complaint.

The telecoms watchdog, Ofcom, last year started an industry review into directory enquiry services.

They have not yet gone out to public consultation, but have advised people to check their options.

There are more than 400 operators in the UK that provide directory enquiry services.

One is as cheap as 35 pence for the entire call.

Other phone services that carry advertising and automated responses are free.

Many internet services are also free to users.