Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/05/09/ofcom_misselling/

Ofcom fudge fails to protect consumers from mis-selling

'Cannot guarantee any of the information'

By Tim Richardson

Posted in Broadband, 9th May 2006 11:36 GMT

Ofcom has made a half-hearted attempt to name and shame telcos that have been reported for slamming and other mis-selling.

The communications regulator has published a document entitled "Information about per-provider slamming and mis-selling complaints", after being forced to reveal the data to the Mail on Sunday following a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

Now, the regulator says it will publish information on mis-selling complaints each quarter. But exactly how useful is this information?

The list includes information "on all providers recording three or more complaints to Ofcom within the last three months". And it breaks out the average number of complaints per 100 acquired customers per month. Crystal clear so far?

Even if you take Ofcom's figures at face value and manage to read the stats, consumers keen to protect themselves against rogue operators need to remember the following:

"The information contained is for general guidance only. We do everything possible to check that the information is accurate and up to date at the time of publication. However, we cannot guarantee any of the information, and should not be held liable in any way for its currency and accuracy."

So, if Ofcom "cannot guarantee any of the information, and should not be held liable in any way for its currency and accuracy", what is the point of publishing the material?

By its own admission, the regulator tells us that this information is being made available "as part of Ofcom's continuing enforcement activity in this area to help ensure consumers are properly protected and informed". But didn't it just say that "we cannot guarantee any of the information, and should not be held liable in any way for its currency and accuracy"?

And there's more: "It is important to note that as Ofcom does not investigate individual consumer complaints, it is not possible to verify that each complaint raised with us is a confirmed slamming or mis-selling case."

So, the accuracy of the information can't be guaranteed and Ofcom doesn't even check individual complaints to see if it's an actual case of mis-selling. How exactly can this be used to protect and inform consumers?

A spokesman for BT, which has been extremely vocal about mis-selling, told us that Ofcom should take another look at the whole issue.

"While Ofcom's list could show who may be guilty, it would be far more helpful if they were to publish actual incidences of mis-selling rather than accusations," he told us.

"BT is still getting up to 20,000 complaints a month from our customers and we've been on the verge of taking legal action against companies in recent months. Last April Ofcom published a third party report into the state of the market. BT thinks it may be a good time how to examine the problem again and see how effective its 'getting tough' measures have been." ®