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PSA issues £425,000 fine against company which led consumers to call a directory enquiries number

9 March 2018

- Large fine issued for company operating 118 820
- Company directed consumers to its directory enquiry number
- It advertised the service by claiming there was a fault on the geographic number consumers dialled.

The Phone-paid Services Authority (PSA) has issued a fine of £425,000 against a company which directed consumers reportedly looking for another person, company or service to call a directory enquiries line.

The company, trading under the name Call the 118 113 Helpdesk ltd., had been under investigation by the PSA.

It advertised the service by claiming that there had been a fault on the geographic number dialled and telling consumers to call 118 820, which is charged at a premium rate. 

Consumers were charged £6.98 for the first minute of the call on the 118 820 number, and then £3.49 for every minute after that.

The Tribunal found that pricing was not given promptly on the call to the geographic number, and that the company had failed to disclose significant information, which had impeded the PSA’s enquiries into whether the service had been run in a misleading way.

The service has been barred until compliance advice is sought and implemented. The provider has also been ordered to make refunds to all consumers who claim one within 28 days of their claim.

A PSA spokesperson said: ‘Directory enquiry services must ensure consumers are fully and clearly informed of all information likely to influence the decision to purchase. If companies break the rules, we will take action.

'Many consumers expressed serious concerns about this service and as a result we investigated. 

'The fines we issue are set by an independently-functioning Code Adjudication Panel and are proportionate to the level of harm a non-compliant service has caused. In this case, that was very considerable. 

‘We’ll continue to take action to maintain a healthy and innovative market where people can charge content, goods and services to their phone bill with confidence.’