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Final call for printed telephone directories as it's confirmed they're now consigned to history

ComReg has now ruled that it will no longer impose a requirement on Eir to publish an annual directory of telephone subscribers.

Image: Shutterstock/Michal Kowalski

HOLD ONTO YOUR copy of the 2019 telephone directory as it might prove to be a valuable collector’s item in future.

It follows confirmation by the telecommunications regulator, ComReg, that last year’s phone book was the final edition of a publication that was once a commonplace item in every home and business.

Following a public consultation, ComReg has now ruled that it will no longer impose a requirement on Eir to publish an annual directory of telephone subscribers.

In making its decision, the regulator said it had taken into account that electronic communications markets were changing rapidly and there were alternative methods available for the sourcing of phone numbers, in particular online directories.

Another factor was the low level of demand for the 2019 edition of the telephone directory.

Fewer than 2,400 copies were ordered by members of the public after the regulator had decided in 2018 that a free printed local area directory would no longer be provided to every household in the state with a landline connection.

Where several million copies of directories were once printed annually, ComReg said only 2,800 of the latest edition were printed, including 890 for the 01 Dublin area and just 165 in the 02 Cork area.

The delivery cost of last year’s directory was €4.70 which only 298 subscribers paid, with the remainder opting to collect it at an Eir outlet free of charge.

ComReg said the low number indicated there was currently little willingness to pay for a printed telephone directory.

Eir had also called for an end to its requirement to publish an annual directory as it estimated that the cost of printing the 2019 edition was €39.02 per copy.

The company said the production of printed directories on either an opt-in or opt-out basis was “neither efficient nor environmentally friendly”.

Production of the 2019 directory cost Eir almost €110,000. The figure in 2015 was €1.4 million.

A survey revealed that 83% of people who registered to obtain the 2019 directory were over 65 years, while 34% had no access to the internet at home.

Although Eir has committed to providing an online directory until the end of 2020, ComReg said it would need to revisit the issue if it was removed or became a paid-for service.

In making its decision, ComReg said its objective was to ensure that end users were provided with an affordable way to access phone numbers when such a service was not provided under normal market conditions.

 “The availability of an online directory of subscribers service provides the vast majority of end users with a viable alternative to a printed phonebook directory and directory enquiry calls,” said ComReg.

The regulator said the market demand for directory enquiry services, otherwise known as 118 numbers, was also declining generally as consumers were using other technologies to find telephone numbers such as the online directory operated by Eir.

Eir reported that its revenue from its 11811 operator service had decreased by 33% in the year to June 2019 to €5 million due to reduced call volumes after a 16% drop in the previous 12-month period.

ComReg pointed out that a consumer survey showed that just 23% of respondents said they would use a telephone directory in the first instance when looking for a phone number (and just 12% for a business number) compared to 49% who would use an internet service and 26% who would ask friends or family.

A free directory enquiry service will remain available for users who are visually impaired or who suffer some other disability which makes reading the telephone directory difficult.

Eight of the 27 EU member states currently provide only electronic directories.

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About the author:

Seán McCárthaigh

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