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Industry told to 'clean up its act'

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The head of the Trading Standards Institute (TSI) has called for "strong penalties" to combat mis-selling by telecoms companies.

TSI chief exec Ron Gainsford said he is "concerned at the growing problem of telecoms mis-selling and would like to see strong penalties for misleading sales behaviour".

His comments come on the first anniversary of Ofcom's industry code of conduct, designed to stamp out slamming and other dodgy sales techniques.

In May 2005, all telcos flogging fixed line services had to adhere to a mandatory code of practice to prevent punters being duped into switching telephone suppliers. In the worst "slamming" cases, punters are switched from one telco to another without their knowledge or consent. Companies that breach the new rules could be fined up to 10 per cent of turnover.

At the time, Ofcom chief exec Stephen Carter said: "These measures should help support progress towards the appropriate levels of clarity and transparency whilst the market continues to mature."

But BT says that little has changed over the last 12 months and wants the telecoms industry to "clean up its act" after receiving more than 200,000 complaints about mis-selling over the last year.

In a statement, BT Consumer MD Gavin Patterson said: "This is an anniversary the telecoms industry should be ashamed of. We've received 200,000 complaints since the codes were introduced and...with complaints to us running up to 20,000 a month, we're worried thousands more customers are going to suffer from the problem in the year ahead."

A spokesman for Ofcom told us that enforcing the rules introduced in this area last year "is a priority for Ofcom".

"We continue to run an industry-wide investigation into compliance which has led to action against several individual companies. When changes to the rules were made, we said we'd assess their impact over a two year period and that is what will happen over the coming months," he told us. ®

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