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Ofcom Fine UK ISP Onestream £35K for Aggressive Mis-selling UPDATE

Thursday, December 5th, 2019 (11:09 am) - Score 1,144

Hampshire-based broadband ISP Onestream, which was established in 2016 and has launched a range of affordable ADSL2+ and FTTC based bundles, has today been fined £35,000 by Ofcom after the regulator found that they “took over the telephone services of more than a 100 people without their permission” (slamming).

Slamming is a mis-selling practice that can occur when naughty people or ISPs trigger a switch (migration) of your service to another provider, albeit without you ever having given confirmed consent. Ofcom’s existing migration rules (General Condition 7 – formerly GC22) are designed to protect against such abuse, but they’re not perfect and some cases still occur.

The regulator’s investigation, which began in January (here), found three-quarters of people slammed by Onestream were elderly or vulnerable. They also discovered that, in many cases, even when customers cancelled Onestream’s order to take over their landline telephone service, the company made repeated attempts to transfer them across regardless.

Overall a total of “at least” 113 people were affected by the provider’s actions, which occurred between 13th April 2018 and 25th January 2019.

Ofcom Statement

We have fined Onestream £35,000. The company has admitted its failings and agreed to settle the case. Onestream must also release affected customers from their contracts without charge, and refund those who had already switched and paid early termination fees.

Onestream has also written to all customers who switched to it as a result of a telesales call, to tell them they are entitled to exit their contract without being penalised, at any time, regardless of whether they were the subject of this investigation.

Ofcom expects the fine to be paid within 20 working days and after that it will be passed on to HM Treasury. The figure may seem small for such an offence, although it’s worth considering that Onestream itself is a very small ISP and the ruling will no doubt affect their reputation within the eyes of consumers.

The penalty also includes a 30% discount from the fine that Ofcom would otherwise have imposed, which is on account of Onestream’s admissions of liability and its agreement to enter into a settlement. “The penalty reflects a number of factors including the harm suffered by customers, the objective of deterrence as well as the seriousness of the contravention. We also took into account the recklessness with which Onestream acted by not having in place effective and compliant policies and procedures which led directly to the contravention,” said Ofcom.

The regulator has a long history of coming down hard on ISPs that are found to be engaged in mis-selling practices, like slamming, and as a result most providers are wise enough to avoid doing it. The last ISP to suffer as a result of such action was True Telecom, which at the end of 2017 was slapped with a £300,000 fine for mis-selling their landline telephone services to over 100 people (here); quite a bit more than Onestream.

UPDATE 1:37pm

We’ve had a comment from Onestream.

A Spokesperson for Onestream told ISPreview.co.uk:

“Over the past twelve months Onestream has worked extremely hard to make changes and introduce safeguards throughout the business, ensuring there can be no repetition of the mistakes that were made. Proven and respected industry professionals now hold key positions within the Onestream organisation who, working closely with independent consultants have revised all processes and implemented best practice to achieve positive change. All affected customers have been fully compensated, released from all and any contractual obligation and have received a full and unreserved apology.”

Leave a Comment
8 Responses
  1. Avatar André

    Andrews and Arnold have an “anti-slamming” option whereby you give them notice that you do NOT intend to migrate your service away and they’ll automatically reject any request from another ISP to do so.

  2. Avatar Cmon and slam

    Less than £350 per customer slammed? Seems like a paltry fine to me.

  3. Avatar beany

    Disgusting behaviour by them and rightly punished, however…
    “Overall a total of “at least” 113 people were affected by the provider’s actions…”

    Meanwhile Ofcom do nothing about the thousands of individual complaints the likes of BT and Talk Talk get on a monthly basis about shonky support and billing and other issues.

    I guess its easier to slap a little fine on little guys than it is to go after a big organisation that will be multi-lawyered up.

    Good old toothless Ofcom.

    • Avatar CarlT

      Little guys like £880k on BT-owned Plusnet in 2017?

      https://www.ofcom.org.uk/about-ofcom/latest/media/media-releases/2017/plusnet-fined-880,000

      There are many charges that can be legitimately leveled at Ofcom though this isn’t one of them.

    • Avatar beany

      I would not call BT Plusnet with hundreds of thousands of customers little when compare to this company. Ofcom did once (I think this was also 2017) try to fine BT something like 40 Million but that got magically and substantially reduced when fought in court.

      This figure of £35k the 880k Plusnet one you mention and the 42 Million one for BT i remember are also all examples of inconsistency with Ofcom and fining. SIZE of the ISP should not matter big or small, those that commit a wrong should be punished accordingly (including this company).

      Personally id like to see Ofcom slap more misbehaving providers with punishment, when they do misbehave and id like to see the punishment be consistent across the board.

      Fines, especially when they are for silly small or big amounts are not the answer always either. A small fine achieves nothing and a big fine you can not get reduced via legal wrangling just gets added to billing for customers to pay. Threaten to take away their licence to operate, or stop them being allowed to sign up new customers until they fix their wrongs may in some cases be a better way to deal with the scum.

    • Avatar WindUpMerchant

      “This figure of £35k the 880k Plusnet one you mention and the 42 Million one for BT i remember are also all examples of inconsistency with Ofcom and fining.”

      Not to mention your own inconsistency in presenting these figures.

      (Could have been £35k, £880k, £42m).

    • Avatar beany

      What was inconsistent? Those are the fine figures Ofcom decided upon. What gets paid is another matter entirely which i though i also mentioned.

      If you are trying to state i did not use “£”, “k” and “m” symbols in the manner you desire it appears it was not necessary, as you could clearly understand the figures mentioned.

      Not sure what your point is… Confused.

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