There are many ways of finding telephone numbers for businesses and organisations. Make sure you're not tricked into unnecessarily parting with your cash in the process.
If you're looking for a telephone number for a person or a business, the first place to look is the BT Phone Book, Yellow Pages or other printed directory such as Thomson Local. These offer the best method of finding the correct number - but will be useful only if you need a number that is local to wherever you are.
For numbers that are further afield, most people will turn to either Directory Enquiries or to the Internet. Both are mired with danger and the risk of spending considerable sums of money. Don't be caught out!
Calls to 118 numbers incur an Access Charge paid to the benefit of the caller's landline or mobile provider to connect and convey the call and a Service Charge paid to the benefit of the Directory Enquiries service to look up the number.
The Access Charge can be up to 12p per minute from landlines or up to 45p per minute from mobiles, giffgaff currently charges 25p per minute.
The Service Charge may be only a few pence per minute or it could be anywhere up to '£5.74 per call plus £2.99 per minute' or up to '£6.98 per call plus £3.49 per minute'. The service must declare the Service Charge wherever their number is advertised or promoted.
Once they have found the number for you, it is best to hang up and dial the number yourself.
Most Directory Enquiries services will offer to put you through. Not all of them make clear that if you stay on the line and let them connect you, then you will continue paying both the Access Charge and the Service Charge for the entire duration of the call.
The cost of calling the most expensive DQ services from the most expensive landline and mobile providers and from giffgaff is shown in the links.
Most of the numbers you want to call would otherwise be inclusive in your allowance (01, 02, 03) or free (080). Hang up and dial the number yourself.
Rather than paying a Directory Enquiries service to look up the number, many people turn to the internet for a solution.
Never use a number displayed directly in Google's search results. Always click through to the official website of the organisation you want to contact and take the number from their official contact page.
Numbers shown directly in Google's search results may, at best, be for the wrong department or out of date (especially noting that most 084 and 087 numbers have been changed to cheaper 03 numbers), or, at worst, be part of a scam advertised by a third-party.
Directories on the Internet
All of the traditional paper-based directories, such as BT, Yellow Pages or Thomson, also have an internet presence. These sites will give you the official number for the business or organisation you're after.
There are also very many niche or specialised directories covering specific types of business or specific areas of the country. These tend to be less accurate.
In recent years another type of website has emerged. These are designed solely to part you from your money.
Call Connection Services / Information, Connection and Sign-posting Services (ICSS)
At first glance, these sites look like a directory of well-known businesses and organisations and they prominently feature a telephone number to call.
Unlike a standard directory, these sites feature many paragraphs of text describing each listed business. This tactic ensures these pages rank highly in Google search results.
Some of these pages may feature company logos or other information that may give an impression to the casual reader that this is the official site or some sort of 'approved' page posted on behalf of the business. Several of these sites have been censured by ASA for this.
The telephone number may be repeated multiple times on the page, either separately or within the long passages of text. If there is a disclaimer, it may be buried at the very end of the page, a long way from the displayed phone number. Likewise, call charges may not feature prominently.
The telephone number will almost always start 084 or 087 and will NOT be the official number for the organisation you want to call. Calls to 084, 087 and 09 numbers incur a premium charge, now known as the Service Charge, paid to the benefit of the called party and their telecoms supplier.
In most cases, the listed numbers have been set up or are otherwise owned by the call connection service. They pocket the Service Charge and forward the calls to the organisation you wanted to contact.
To be clear, rather than promote the official number of the organisation you wanted to call, these services set up their own premium rate numbers which they benefit from and they simply forward the calls onwards to the official number. Callers pay a premium rate and the connection service pockets the Service Charge.
These services have thousands of pages listing various government departments and major retailers. One or more of these connection services pops up on the first page of Google's search results for almost any well-known company you can think of. Some of these services also appear in the paid search and sponsored listings.
ICSS numbers with a Service Charge of more than 7p per minute and using 087 and 09 numbers are now regulated by PhonepayPlus. Most of these services have since changed to 084 numbers and have a Service Charge of 7p per minute or less, and hence escape PhonepayPlus regulation.
Calling these connection services can cost you considerably more than calling the official 01, 02, 03 or 080 number for the organisation you wanted to contact. The links below show the cost of calling 084 and 087 numbers from the most expensive landline and mobile providers and from giffgaff.
Summary of Main Points
- When using Directory Enquiries services, do not accept their offer to 'put you through' as this will work out very expensive. Hang up and dial the number yourself.
- Never use phone numbers shown directly on a Google search results page. These may be for the wrong department, out of date, or part of a scam. Always click through to the actual site.
- Only use numbers found on official websites. Third party and unofficial websites may be out of date (especially noting that most 084 and 087 numbers have been changed to cheaper 03 numbers) or part of a scam.
- Avoid using 'Call Connection Services' (CCS) and 'Information, Connection and Sign-posting Services' (ICSS). These services offer their own unofficial premium rate 084, 087 and 09 numbers purporting to connect you to various organisations. In every case you will be paying a lot more for the call than if you had called the official number for the organisation found elsewhere.