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Ofcom UK Opens New Consultation to Tackle Broadband ISP Mis-Selling

Posted: 10th Sep, 2009 By: MarkJ
Regulator Ofcom has said that mis-selling of UK telecommunications products, such as broadband and voice line services, remains a serious problem. The regulator has already attempted to curb the situation by toughening its stance with a Code of Practice (CoP), though this has apparently not been enough and "the level of mis-selling remains high".

One of the most abused forms of mis-selling is known as slamming and we detail it HERE. Slamming is where customers are switched from one ISP to another without their knowledge or consent. In some cases you might only be aware of this once you’ve received a bill from a different company.

In response the regulator has begun a new consultation (here) that proposes a two-staged approach to tackling the problem, which will move away from the CoP and seek a more mandatory set of simplified rules.

Stage One Proposals
•clarification and simplification of regulations and, particularly, moving away from a Code of Practice approach to absolute prohibitions within General Conditions (GCs);

•extending Cancel Other rules to all providers [and withdrawing BTs Cancel Other Direction]; and

•clarifying record keeping obligations.
Stage Two Proposals
(requiring further analysis and consultation)
•information to consumers on the potential consequences of switching; and

•mandatory call recording obligations.

We note that the Cancel Other process allows a customer’s existing provider to cancel a live order before a transfer takes place. It is only supposed to be used when a customer alleges slamming, though some providers have abused this in order to prevent customers from switching.

Ofcom also recognises that its current enforcement process is lengthy, resulting in further harm and frustration for consumers. However prohibiting inappropriate sales and marketing activity might work against the big ISPs, yet there are always other ways around it.

It is unlikely to completely stop unaccountable third parties (e.g. dubious doorstep sales people) from abusing the trust of less knowledgeable consumers to gain a sale and commission without informing the individual of any consequences that might crop up.
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