Broadband and phone provider TalkTalk has unveiled a new feature that is intended to warn users about the potentially high costs of calling 118 directory enquiries numbers.
The company is introducing a tool called 'Call Whisper' which will deliver a message whenever a customer dials a 118 number. ISPreview.co.uk reports that this will inform them they may be charged as much as £19.98 for a 90-second call and advise them to use the internet to search for the number for free instead.
This move follows recent action by Ofcom to crack down on the high cost of certain 118 services. Research by the telecoms regulator released in November revealed there is a wide variation in how much these services can cost, which could be particularly harmful to vulnerable consumers who are the main users of such service.
Ofcom therefore announced plans to introduce a cap on prices for directory enquiries calls.
This will see the cost of 118 services limited to £3.65 for a 90-second call, a return to the costs seen in 2012.
However, TalkTalk argues that this does not go far enough, and even with the new cap in place, calls to 118 numbers will still be more than three times more expensive than necessary.
It has proposed a cap of £1 for a 90-second call, as well as limits on how much providers can charge to connect a caller to a number.
Chief Executive of TalkTalk Tristia Harrison said: "Even with the proposed price-cap, companies will continue ripping-off customers – the majority of whom, potentially vulnerable or elderly people, have no idea of the true cost of these calls.
"We’re also concerned that there are no plans to control the charges when a call is connected onwards, despite this being the greatest incidence of bill shock."
She added the company has therefore chosen to take "robust action" on its own to tackle this, and called on Ofcom to do more to insure than competitive is working effectively in this market, which she described as "well and truly broken".