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192 Directory Enquiries
Directory Enquiries UK. Used to be Free. Well it Should Be. Think about it - you're trying to find out someone's phone number so you can Phone Them Up. This is good for business for BT because they make money out of the phone calls, so why do they try to charge you for telling you the phone number as well!?
For what it costs you just to find out the number, you can stick a stamp on a letter and the postman will deliver it to the door! Which is better value?! see p-mail
Of course this "directory enquiries isn't free" nonsense started with the idea that you shouldn't be so lazy and you should look up the number in the phone book. Snag is, phone boxes don't have phone books, and the phone book delivered to your house is only a very small area and the chances are you're right on the edge of it so you're expected to pay to find out the phone number of places just up the road.
There was a time when you could find out numbers online via www.bt.com/phonenetuk/ but this doesn't really work all that well anymore.
The mystery here is why BT want to restrict phone number information. Surely it would be better if all the info was freely available? Then people would make more phone calls!
Also, phone books are made of trees and are expensive. I have suggested to BT (on several occasions) that customers should be given the option of having either The Phone Book, or a Data CD of the entire country. (The CD would be cheaper to make and would save trees, but it would also get people making more phone calls!).
Well, BT have ignored this so far. But there is a company doing a CD which is something similar, and although the disc costs money it's probably still cheaper than phoning Directory Enquiries (which now costs money even from a phone box!).
Yes, we know it's 118 now, but of course what would really make sense is for BT to attract more people to make more phone calls by introducing a new Free Directory Service!
For a CD of the UK Phone Directory database AND the UK Electoral Roll, see 192.com
News (2004/02): There is now a way of getting Free Directory Enquiries by means of OneTel. See How to get Free Directory Enquiries
Further update (2006/03): There is a Free Directory Enquiries service offered by Trinity Mirror on 08000 192 190. Well Done to Trinity Mirror for doing this! - Actually I'm not sure this is still going.
Incidentally, the number "192" and hence 192.com sticks in the memory, and it can also be seen in things such as the frequency of the caesium atomic clock, which is 9,192,631,770Hz. This has been used for calibrating things to fit with the speed of light