September 18, 2002
The high cost of dialing 555-1212 for directory assistance got even higher this summer. MCI, Sprint and VarTec all increased their rates to $2.49 per call. Consumers won't do much better with AT&T; at $1.99 for each 555-1212 call.

However, lower rates are available from other providers, 10-10 dial-around numbers and cellular plans. Listings are also free on the Web.

"Smart consumers can beat the phone companies at the rate increase game," says independent consumer advocate Rich Sayers of Competitive long distance providers charge as little as 75 cents for 555-1212. Sayers advises that it's not necessary to switch carriers to get a lower rate. Dial-around services can be accessed instantly via 10-10 numbers.

The best rates Sayers has found come from WorldxChange Communications and Everdial. It's just 75 cents to call 555-1212 via those companies 10-10 numbers. Using your cell phone is another option. Several major cell phone companies charge about $1.25 per call.

If you have Internet access, phone numbers can be looked up for free at numerous online phone books. While Sayers notes that listings are not as current online, he uses the Web sites regularly and finds most of the numbers he's looking for. The biggest savings come when searching for foreign phone numbers or addresses. They are free at over 200 sites. Calling a live operator for international numbers costs $7.95 a call.

For links to U.S. phone book Web sites point your Web browser to:

For links to foreign Web sites (many are in English) point your Web browser to: