Two months after the directory inquiries market was opened up to competition, 70% consumers are said to be so bewildered by the rash of new services that they would rather return to the BT [BTY] ‘192’ single-number system.
A study has found that 76% of users preferred the service provided by BT. It also reported that 69% of people are unaware of how much a call to a 118 number costs, despite heavy advertising by providers.
The findings are the latest in a series of setbacks for the fledgling sector. Since Oftel (the telecommunications industry regulator) ended BT’s monopoly in August, with the introduction of 118 numbers, total calls to directory services have plummeted by about 50%. The decline has caused fears that, far from providing better choice for consumers, the shake-up has put them off using the service altogether.
Some of the new operators have struggled to generate the volume of calls projected, with the shortfall attributed to confusion over how different services are priced. Indeed, Conduit, which operates the 118 888 number, has already made 250 temporary staff redundant.
Last month questions were also raised about the effectiveness of the sector after executives from the ‘Number,’ operator of the heavily advertised 118 118 service, were quizzed by Oftel and phone service regulator Icstis about reports of poor service standards.
BT, meanwhile, said it was not surprised by the situation and claims 30% have gravitated back towards it since the other companies came in to the market.