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Consumers are in "fear for their personal safety" from ruthless salespeople who try to get them to switch phone companies.

While three quarters of people found doorstep selling an unnecessary intrusion into their private lives, one in five said they were "nervous or worried for their personal safety when approached on their doorstep".

Four in ten said doorstep selling was "intimidating".

The research, carried out by pollsters ICM, was commissioned by BT and paints a disturbing picture of doorstep selling.

In the worst cases people are "slammed" and have their phone lines switched to rival telcos without first giving their consent.

BT - which is losing 100,000 phone customers a month to rivals such as TalkTalk and OneTel - has called on the industry to adopt a code of practice that would give greater security to punters. It also wants firms caught slamming to be be forced to pay £250 compensation to each slammed customer.

Said BT Retail bigwig, Gavin Patterson: "Our research clearly shows that being approached and sold to in this way makes consumers feel annoyed at best and vulnerable and intimidated at worst. Why should people have to put up with this intrusion into their homes?"

Rival OneTel hit back saying its research found that more than 90 per cent of punters collared on the doorstep rate it as "good to excellent" for the overall sales experience and also for being "helpful and polite".

Said an OneTel spokeswoman: "Direct sales have been crucial to creating effective competition across the utilities and many other markets. Millions of consumers have switched suppliers and saved billions of pounds as a result of direct selling.

"We follow strict guidelines and sales practices designed to ensure that customers are not signed up to a service they do not wish to be switched to."

At the beginning of the month Ofcom introduced tough new industry rules to stamp out slamming and other dodgy sales techniques, but BT reckons they don't go far enough. ®

Related stories

Ofcom eyes phone slamming breaches
Ofcom acts to combat 'slamming'
Competition Tribunal rules against BT 'save' calls
Ofcom intervenes in telephone 'slamming' row
BT gets huffy about mis-selling

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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