Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/10/05/ofcom_slamming/

Ofcom continues phone slamming investigation

Slowly does it

By Tim Richardson

Posted in Broadband, 5th October 2005 11:45 GMT

All of the UK's 35 leading phone operators have managed to introduce guidelines to prevent their staff from mis-selling phone services.

That's a big improvement on six months ago when only three of the 35 had introduced the necessary measures to prevent customers being ripped off by unscrupulous sales staff.

Of course, having a code of practice in place to prevent slamming - where people are transferred to a new supplier without their consent - is not enough to guarantee consumer protection.

Which is why the never-to-be-rushed regulator is now trawling through thousands of complaints to see whether they warrant a full-blown investigation into the sales tactics of certain operators.

The regulator insists that it continues to "examine evidence of consumer complaints about mis-selling of fixed-line telecommunications services". And if operators are found to be in breach of the rules they can be fined up to 10 per cent of their turnover.

But despite threats by Ofcom to name and shame, it has so far failed to finger individual companies.

BT has questioned whether Ofcom's deterrents are working and whether consumers are getting the protection they deserve. The UK's dominant fixed-line telco - which is losing tens of thousands of customers to rival operators - says the number of mis-selling complaints have increased from 15,000 a month in May to 21,000.

Ofcom puts the number of mis-selling complaints at between 500-600 a month.

In August BT secured an out of court settlement against Caudwell Communications Ltd (CCL) for "infringement of registered trade marks and for passing off".

The High Court action, which kicked off in May, followed customer complaints that CCL's sales agents had misled customers into thinking that the company was in some way connected to BT. ®