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The number of calls made to directory enquiries (DQ) services plummeted by almost half in the two weeks after the switchover to new 118 services, according to dominant telco BT.

In what appears to be a complete mystery, BT found that the number of calls to all new 118 numbers is down by around 45 per cent compared to the number of calls made to BT's old 192 service during the same period last year.

BT Retail chief exec, Pierre Danon, said: "We have been surprised by the extent to which 192 withdrawal has reduced calls to directory enquiry services overall.

"This massive reduction can only be partly attributed to the annual decline of between five and ten per cent in directory enquiry calls in recent years.

"We believe that this further drop is mainly attributable to recent regulatory changes, and the resulting consumer confusion and concerns about price and quality. This will not have been helped by the quality of some of the new services, which are far from an improvement on the 192 service customers have been used to.

Holy mackerel! Does this mean people are simply not making phone calls to plumbers, curry houses and suppliers of widgets simply because they're too confused to phone up DQ?

Unlikely, say Oftel and those at DQ service 11 88 88. Both claim that the huge wave of publicity that has accompanied deregulation of the DQ market has made people more aware of the cost of phoning directory enquiries.

As a result, people are being less lazy and using phone books more, or using online DQ services instead. ®

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