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Ofcom intervenes in telephone 'slamming' row

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Ofcom has been forced to intervene in an industry row concerning the transfer of customers between telcos.

Phone providers such as Centrica want to make it easier for people to ditch BT and take up their rival services. BT wants to ensure that customers who leave the telco are not the victims of mis-selling or "slamming". Despite protracted negotiations neither side has been able to come up with a workable solution. As a result communications regulator Ofcom has waded in to settle the dispute.

Centrica claims BT is able to prevent customers transferring to alternative providers without any comeback for the customer or their chosen new provider. "Short of an appropriate resolution, BT can still cancel customers' orders to switch provider and then deny the chosen provider access to their customer to resolve whatever issues they may have experienced during the switching process," said the company .

Ian El-Mokadem, MD of Centrica Telecommunications added that he hoped Ofcom's intervention would result in a solution that "enables communications providers to finally take full control of the customer experience and speedily deal with customer concerns and resolve issues around the transfer process".

"Their [BT's] ability to stop customers legitimately switching providers is like Sainsbury’s being able to stop its customers shopping at Asda. It's clearly not in the interests of competition to have the dominant incumbent provider have this level of control over customers' experience of the competitive market," he said.

But BT - which is losing around 100,000 punters a month - insists it is acting in the best interests of consumers who are being targetted by unscrupulous telcos. It is aware of more than 100,000 instances of alleged mis-selling in the past year alone and remains concerned that "consumer protection in the wide area of mis-selling is far from satisfactory".

"We are looking to industry to acknowledge the mis-selling problem and tackle the issues," said a BT spokesman. ®

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