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'Hello, this is directory enquiries. Which discount do you require?'

Deregulation could save your business money...
Written by Tony Hallett, Contributor

Deregulation could save your business money...

The deregulation of the directory enquiries (DQ) market in the UK, moving from BT's 192 number to a series of six-digit codes starting 118, means businesses can negotiate discounts by exclusively signing up to one provider - but there is a problem: not all users are aware of the new flexibility. In a straw poll conducted by silicon.com among the 118 providers, all - with one major exception - said they will be addressing this market. BT has lost its DQ monopoly - and some feel lost out by getting the code 118 500 - but a spokeswoman said: "We expect all the providers to have rates for large companies. BT will definitely have something to announce on this, probably in the summertime." Of course, not all the 118 offerings are from UK-based companies. Deregulation has meant competition from overseas companies. Telegate is a German DQ outfit on 118 866. It handles services for telcos such as Thus but more relevantly has already started signing up corporate customers at special rates, for example Kwik-Fit Insurance. The company would not give details of the discount but experts have predicted savings of 30 per cent or higher on the standard, publicised prices. Perhaps the 118 newcomer to make the biggest noise has been The Number 118 118, whose advertising motif is comical twins, made up to look like seventies distance runners. William Ostrom, communications director at The Number, said: "We're in discussions with all the major corporates we can get to. We can only win market share." He said pricing will depend on call volumes, but pointed out that any potential customer will have to go through several preparatory stages. Going with one provider depends on users setting up PBX phone systems so other numbers cannot be dialled. Then there has to be a culture - encouraged by telecoms and IT departments - which says individuals shouldn't use call completion. This is the "Would you like to be connected now?" service sold to consumers as a value-add but which will negate cost savings for companies. However, one major provider is sticking to the consumer market. Orange, with its 118 000 number, is instead concentrating on promoting its service's functionality and database, which it claims is cleaner internationally, for example, than some competitors' offerings. The DQ market is expected to grow from being worth £700m per year to £1bn, with corporate use accounting for 40 per cent of all revenues.
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