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The UK's recently deregulated directory enquiries (DQ) service has received yet another mauling after a report found that three in four 118 services were unable to answer simple enquiries correctly.

An investigation by consumer champion Which? found that in many cases punters are paying over the odds for a substandard service.

With just one correct number out of five enquiries, Cable & Wireless Quickcall provided the worst service.
"Maureen" - a DQ service underpinned by Cable & Wireless - was second worst and able only to answer two enquiries out of five.

Taking an average of almost two minutes on each query, Maureen was also the most expensive service, with an average cost of 65p.

Said Which? editor, Helen Parker: "Remembering what number to dial for directory enquiries is the least of your problems when it comes to using the new '118' services. Only a quarter of the services we contacted were able to answer all five of our queries correctly.

"Problems ranged from being given a wrong number to no number at all and we were even cut off. This often poor service didn't come cheap, with call costs ranging from 20p to £1.10," she said.

Those 118 outfits that appeared to do OK were One (118 811), Orange (118 000), The Number (118 118) and Share (118 499), which managed to get all five queries right.

Of these, One was cheapest, with a flat-rate service that costs 30p regardless of call length.

Telecoms regulator Oftel is currently carrying out its own research into 118 services and is due to publish a report in the next couple of weeks. ®

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