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Page last updated at 10:41 GMT, Thursday, 18 June 2009 11:41 UK
Phone service offers mobile numbers

By Chi Chi Izundu
Newsbeat reporter

A new directory enquiry service has been launched which allows users to get through to anyone's mobile phone. People who use the service will have to know the name and address of the person they want to get hold of and then the operator will ring them up and ask if they want to speak to you.

Mobile phone
Some market research companies buy and sell lists of phone numbers

How does this system actually work?

It's not as simple as phoning up directory enquiries and asking for any old Tom, Dick or Harry. You have to have a little more information than just someone's name. You can either phone up the service or head to their website. It'll cost you about 69p and then 14p for every minute you're on the line to them. If you use the service online, that'll set you back £1 a go.

Shona Forster from 118 800 explained: "If I'm trying to get hold of say Bob, I phone up 118 800 and I ask for Bob Smith at Acacia Avenue and 118 800 will look to see if Bob is in our directory. If so, they'll call Bob and say, we've got Shona Forster on the phone, do you want to take the call."

The company will contact you and ask you if you want to speak to the person trying to get in contact with you. If you're receiving the call you won't be charged. The company say they've taken people's privacy really seriously.

Newsbeat spoke to several people to find out what they think.

Nineteen-year-old Tom is a little worried about privacy issues. He said: "People might want to keep their security, they might want to remain anonymous."

Paul, 26, agreed with Tom. He said: "It can be a bit concerning. You don't want people getting a hold of your mobile number. It's just basic privacy. It seems a bit wrong that they can ring up a service, give them your name and get your mobile number."

How does the company get hold of mobile numbers?

The people behind the service say they manage to get hold of mobile numbers in several ways. Sometimes when you're online and filling out personal details for something you've bought - including your mobile number - you might be asked if it's OK for your details to be passed on to a third party. That's one way. Another is through market research companies and brokers who buy and sell lists of phone numbers.

What about the issue of children with mobiles?

Another concern about the service is children with mobiles. Company bosses say they do take privacy very seriously and have thought about the possibility of people getting hold of kids numbers.

Shona Forster, head of marketing at 118 800, says parents register mobiles in their own names, so it would be near impossible to get hold of a child.

She said: "We're absolutely clear that our number one priority is to make sure we don't have children in our directory. So there is no way you'll be able to search for a child by name and get hold of them.

"The only instance where the parents may have to think about making a child ex-directory is if they've been using a number for a while in their own name and then they pass that phone to their child, because it means that somebody trying to find that parent may get put through to that child."

Can you opt out?

118 800 say they've made getting your number off their system "very easy". You have to do it online. If you head to their website, there is a small link in the top right hand corner. But it can take a day or up to four weeks for them to get rid of your number from their system. Celebrities are exempt from the list.

Newsbeat spoke to 18-year-old Dan who thinks it's better to have a choice about being in the system.

"If you could choose whether you can have your number in there or not, I think that would be a good idea," he said.



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