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

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015 (10:52 am) - Score 3,169

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.

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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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