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Ofcom Finds UK ISP Unicom Probably Broke its Sales and Marketing Rule

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015 (10:52 am) - Score 3,115
unicom

After a lengthy investigation the UK telecoms regulator has provisionally ruled that there are “reasonable grounds” for believing that Unicom (Universal Utilities) misled consumers over the sale of their fixed line telecommunications services (between the 1st March 2013 and 8th July 2014).

Over the past few years ISPreview.co.uk has received a small string of complaints about Unicom, with many surfacing around 2009-11. In most of those cases the common allegation was that Unicom had failed to make clear that some of their broadband services came with a 3 year contract and sometimes refused to release migration codes for those who wanted to leave. Some customers also expressed strong displeasure with how Unicom’s support had handled their concerns.

Furthermore 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).

So it came as little surprise when Ofcom finally opened an investigation at the end of March 2014 (here), which focused upon whether or not Unicom had 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 “mis-selling” and other sales / marketing related matters. Now, after over a year of waiting, Ofcom has finally given its provisional verdict.

Ofcom Statement

Following an investigation, Ofcom has determined that there are reasonable grounds for believing that Universal Utilities Ltd (trading as Unicom) has contravened GC24.3 of the General Conditions between 1 March 2013 and 8 July 2014.

Ofcom has therefore issued a Notification to Unicom under section 96A of the Communications Act 2003. Specifically, Ofcom has reasonable grounds to believe that Unicom operated standard sales and marketing processes under which it provided prospective customers with mis-leading information about its fixed-line telecommunications services.

The scope of the Investigation was revised during its course as new information became available. In particular, Ofcom discontinued the investigation of possible contraventions of GC9.3, GC9.4 and GC24.6 following our analysis of information obtained from Unicom.”

According to Ofcom’s 24.3 rule, 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 (switching a customer without consent).

Unicom will now be given time to respond before Ofcom makes a final decision, which could include either a hefty fine and or forcing the provider to make a number of changes. At this point Ofcom rarely changes its stance.

Leave a Comment
4 Responses
  1. Avatar Abdul Hameed

    Hi,
    I’ve suffered losses of thousands of pounds because of unicoms dishonest, misleading,and sales reps blatantley lying to get me to sign a contract.Which was more expensive than my previous provider as well as totaly inadequate for my needs.
    Ofcom is a toothless organisation and it will be a slap on the wrist for unicom and buisness as usual,frankley the company could call it self uni-con and ofcom wouldn’t do anything.

  2. Avatar PeterM

    My father had a run in with this company. In his case Ofcom’s 24.3 rule a, b and c were certainly breached. They rolled over his contract as a result of a brief phone call and then he had to pay penalty charges to get out of his contract with a breach of rule b hanging in the air!
    I really do hope that Ofcom follow this through with a hefty fine. Just insisting on changes is not enough in this case. After all a leopard will never change his spots.

  3. Avatar DTMark

    So it has taken OFCOM a year to reach a conclusion?

    I’m still not seeing the point of that organisation nor what it provides the consumer with over and above standard legislation which applies to these sorts of contracts.

    If a customer feels misled or has reasonable cause to believe they have been wronged in some way, it isn’t hard to track down the relevant legislation on the internet. Then, if there exist reasonable grounds to believe there has been a breach then withhold payment and cancel services. If paying by direct debit (something I never, ever do) then cancel the mandate and have the bank snatch the money back. If on continuous card authority, again get that cancelled by the bank.

    And then wait to be sued and argue the matter in court in the meantime getting on with your life. Or, if you are out of pocket as a result, for example it cost you to migrate providers by way of say a new phone line setup, then sue them. It isn’t especially difficult stuff.

    Maybe starting to sound like Adrian Kennard now.

  4. Avatar Busterbobs

    I am astonished that it took Ofcom over a year to provisionally rule that they have reasonable grounds to believe that Unicom provided prospective customers with mis-leading information.
    There could be around a thousand individual complaints about Universal Utilities / Unicom in this list http://www.unicom-complaints.co.uk/click_on_any_link_below_to_view_.htm and not everybody can be wrong.

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