We need action to stop older people facing rip off charges for Directory Enquiries.
An elderly resident of East Renfrewshire was brought to my attention by local people concerned she was not eating and had no means of cooking, but faced massive bills for the use of her telephone landline from BT.
The lady was very distressed so contact was made with East Renfrewshire Council Social Work Team asking for urgent assistance.
But the lady approached the office again the next day, clutching a reminder for over £200, and was, she said, ‘unable to sleep’ with the worry of what might happen to her.
When we looked at the bill, it contained many 118 118 calls costing over £7.
The lady said she always phoned 118 118 to get the number for relatives because she couldn’t remember them.
In March, Ofcom confirmed that it would not cap the cost of directory service calls, despite announcing restrictions to charges for premium rate and non-geographical business numbers in a review in 2015.
Ofcom admitted that it bowed to pressure from 118 providers in its 2015 review.
The treatment of this elderly lady shames BT and its failure to act on this issue raises serious concerns about the effectiveness of Ofcom in creating a fair market.
With so many ways to record numbers and to access them online, very few younger people are likely to ever use these 118 services. They are increasingly a service for older members of the community and others who find it difficult to use more complex technology.
By refusing to cap the cost of these services, or to place an effective social obligation on providers, Ofcom is allowing a rigged market in which companies can take advantage of vulnerable members of the community.
Successive Westminster Governments have allowed the UK to become an increasingly unequal and uncaring society. It is time Scotland’s voice was heard. Surely, rip off services such as these don’t represent the ‘British Values’ Theresa May is so fond of quoting.”
“We make sure that people in the UK get the best from their communications services and are protected from scams and sharp practices, while ensuring that competition can thrive.”
“Ofcom has specific duties under the Communications Act to take account of particular groups of citizens and consumers who may be vulnerable to harm.