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UPDATE Ofcom UK Investigates Unicom’s Sales and Marketing Tactics

Monday, March 31st, 2014 (11:58 am) - Score 11,880
ofcom-uk-telecoms-regulator

The UK telecoms regulator has opened an own-initiative investigation into Universal Utilities (Unicom) after a series of consumer complaints raised concerns about the fixed-line broadband and phone providers sales and marketing tactics in respect to their service terms and contracts.

Ofcom said that its focus would be on whether or not Unicom has complied with its obligations under General Condition 24 (specifically 24.3 and 24.6) and General Condition 9 (specifically 9.3 and 9.4). For reference those GC’s refer to the following rules (note: GC9 imposes a requirement on providers to offer contracts with minimum terms):

General Condition 24

Mis-selling prohibition
24.3 When selling or marketing Fixed-Line Telecommunications Services, the Gaining Communications Provider must not:

(a) engage in dishonest, misleading or deceptive conduct;
(b) engage in aggressive conduct;
(c) contact the Customer in an inappropriate manner; or
(d) engage in Slamming.

Information at Point of sale
24.6 The Gaining Communications Provider must take all reasonable steps to ensure that before entering into a contract for a Fixed-Line Telecommunications Service the Customer who is transferring the line:

a) is authorised to do so;
b) intends to enter into the contract; and
c) is provided with the information set out below in a clear, comprehensible, prominent and accurate manner, in paper or another Durable Medium which is available or accessible to the Customer or, where the Customer enters into the contract during a sales call, by telephone:

(i) the identity of the legal entity the Customer is contracting with and its telephone, website and/or e-mail contact details;
(ii) a description of the Fixed-Line Telecommunications Service requested; the key charges, including minimum contract charges, and any early termination charges, if applicable; payment terms; the existence of any termination right, termination procedures and the Customer’s right to cancel at no cost from the point of sale to the completion of the Transfer Period; the arrangements for provision of the service, including the order process and, as accurately as possible, the likely date of provision of the service and any minimum period of contract.

It may or may not be related but over the past few years ISPreview.co.uk has received a small string of complaints about Unicom, with most surfacing around 2009-11.

In most of those cases the common allegation was that Unicom failed to make clear that some of their broadband services came with a 3 year contract term and sometimes refused to release migration codes for those who wanted to leave.

Some customers also expressed strong displeasure with how Unicom’s customer support department had handled their concerns.

UPDATE 5th Jan 2015

It’s been pointed out to us that Unicom was also mentioned as part of a recent Parliamentary debate, raised by John Healey MP in the House of Commons on the 26th November 2014, in which Healey named Unicom as a “shameful predatory company” (here).

Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy, said:

Anyone listening to the events he recounted will be shocked at the way Unicom has behaved. It seems astonishing that a telecoms company would pursue a man in his 70s, who has broken his back, for this sum of money. It should recognise that … it should waive this bill.”

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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