Directory Assistance - What's the 4-1-1?

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Directory Assistance

When you call an operator to request a telephone number, you are using directory assistance. This service can be provided by your local phone company, your long-distance company or various independent providers. The accuracy, price and method of access depend on the service you use.

Can I receive free directory assistance?

Free directory assistance has been trimmed back in recent years. Availability depends on your local phone company. Also, some companies extend free service to customers who are physically unable to use the printed telephone directory. Contact your local phone company or consult the front of your phone directory for directory assistance rates and policies.

How do I access directory assistance?

Most phone companies allow you to access directory assistance service by dialing “411.” Other directory assistance services require a different dialing pattern such as 555-1212, a toll free number or a number that starts with “10-10.” Charges will vary significantly, check the rate before using any directory assistance service.

What other ways can I look up a number?

Your local phone company must provide you with a free published directory that covers all of your local calling area. For some areas, this may require that you receive more than one telephone directory. You can use the directory assistance provided by your long-distance provider, but check the price first. You can dial into directory assistance services provided by other carriers. Several Internet sites (,,, offer free access to telephone numbers. 

Who handles directory assistance complaints?

If you have a problem with the service you received or the charge for the service, contact the company providing the directory service. Your bill for the directory assistance should include a toll-free number to call. If your contact with the company does not resolve the complaint, submit a complaint to the commission by filing out an online complaint form,  e-mail or call 1-888-333-WUTC (9882).

Tips for Using Directory Assistance

  • Be prepared - Before using directory assistance, learn as much as possible about the listing you seek, such as the correct spelling of the name or names the listing might be under and, if possible, the street address. When calling for long-distance information you will need to know the city of the listing.
  • Use the two listings per call allowance - Verizon and Qwest will allow you two requests per call (same price). When you first reach the operator, let the operator know you will want two listings before you get started.
  • Don't pay for bad information - If you were given incorrect information by the operator, call back and let them know of the mistake. The company should either waive the charge or offer you a credit for a free directory assistance request in the future.
  • Use the free printed directory provided by your phone company - The printed directory is updated on a regular basis and has most of the numbers you will need. If you have difficulty reading the small print in the directory, ask your phone company for a large print version. Some phone companies will extend free directory assistance to blind customers.

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