New campaign slams the slammers
Half a million households suffer from telecom scams at cost of £40 million.
BT has launched a campaign, supported by Trading Standards Institute, calling on Ofcom to take action now to put an end to the mis-selling misery caused by telecoms companies, who hijack consumers’ phone lines.
The campaign is pushing for a new process to prevent customers becoming victims of fixed-line phone mis-selling scams as well as providing advice on how consumers can protect themselves from the scammers.
According to Ofcom, one in forty UK households, that is half a million families, fall victim to the mis-sellers every year. The watchdog estimates the cost to consumers was a massive £40 million last year. BT says that more than 800,000 of their customers, enough to fill Wembley Stadium nine times over, have complained that they have been scammed by another telecoms company.
The dodgy sales techniques used by some agents to switch consumers to their company against the customer’s wishes include ‘slamming’ where the customer is switched to the company without their knowledge, as well as more subtle tactics, such as getting the customer’s signature or agreement by falsely claiming to be ‘part of BT’ or getting them to agree to sign their name for ‘more information’.
Marian Rashid, a 25-year-old married mum with two small children from the West Midlands, is a recent victim of mis-selling. Following a call from a salesman offering broadband services for an attractively low price, she agreed to move suppliers for broadband only.
However without her permission, her landline phone services were also transferred. It took several weeks and several phone calls to resolve the situation, and the broadband supplier has since advised her that she is no longer eligible for the offer.
Marian said: ‘The whole experience has been very stressful and frustrating – and has taken hours to put right, which is tricky for me as a mum of young children.’
The campaign proposes a new system to protect people from being scammed, based around a simple consumer pin code. If you wanted to switch phone companies, you would ask your existing supplier for a pin code, which you would then give to your new supplier. The new supplier can only give you service if they have the code. This will provide certainty that the consumer has clearly chosen and consented to change companies.
Ron Gainsford, chief executive of Trading Standards Institute (TSI), said: ‘We’re very much in favour of the telecoms industry adopting the consumer protection pin code system. We believe that it will stamp out at source the sort of rogue trading practice that has been plaguing telecoms consumers for more than five years.’
BT believes the new process would actually make it easier for consumers to switch suppliers while safeguarding them against being mis-sold. It could also be adopted as the standard switching process for all communications services, including packages or ‘bundled’ services, stopping customers being transferred by mistake or without their consent.
Consumers would get the short and simple pin code quickly and be able to move to a new supplier much faster than current processes allow.
John Petter, managing director of BT’s Consumer division, said: ‘We need to slam the slammers. The process we’re proposing will put an end to mis-selling misery for good, protect consumers and safeguard fair competition. Ofcom’s own data shows that a consumer protection pin code would eliminate mis-selling.
‘It’s criminal that this has been going on at this level for more than five years. I can’t think of any other industry where this would be considered acceptable. It really is time that this was stamped out.’
John Robertson, MP, chair of the All-Party Group on Communications, said: ‘I have been concerned about mis-selling and the lack of protection for consumers for some time. I welcome this new initiative, which I believe will help to address a serious issue in the communications market.’
TSI and BT have produced ‘Talk to the Hand’ a free, straightforward guide for consumers, featuring five simple steps they can take to protect themselves from landline mis-selling. It is available to download at: www.bt.com/misselling. BT will also be reproducing the guide in its Update magazine, which is sent to all customers.
Five Simple Steps you can take to protect yourself from mis-selling
Always ask for the caller’s full name and company details and write them down, and if approached at the door, ask to see their identification badge. Do not be afraid to ask again if they are vague or unclear.
Note the time and date of any calls or visits you receive, and keep a written record of conversations. Also ask for the name of the person you are dealing with (check their ID if a visit), the organisation they represent and a contact number the organisation can be phoned back on and make a note of this too.
Never give out your bank details to verify your identity.
4. Ask Questions
Always ask for precise information about the price you will be paying. If you’re not sure, or need more time to think, then ask the caller to post the information to
5. Be Clear
Make it very clear if you are accepting or refusing the offer, or simply waiting to receive more information. It is your decision and you can take as long as you want to decide if you want to move.
Notes to editors
BT is one of the world’s leading providers of communications solutions and services operating in 170 countries. Its principal activities include the provision of networked IT services globally; local, national and international telecommunications services to our customers for use at home, at work and on the move; broadband and internet products and services and converged fixed/mobile products and services. BT consists principally of four lines of business: BT Global Services, Openreach, BT Retail and BT Wholesale.
In the year ended March 31, 2009, BT Group’s revenue was £21,390 million.
British Telecommunications plc (BT) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT Group plc and encompasses virtually all businesses and assets of the BT Group. BT Group plc is listed on stock exchanges in London and New York.
For more information, visit www.bt.com/aboutbt
About Trading Standards Institute
Trading Standards Institute has represented the interests of Trading Standards professionals for 120 years. We have a long and proud history of ensuring that the views of our members are well represented at the highest level of government, both nationally and internationally.
Our aim is to promote excellence and enhance the professionalism of our members in support of empowering and informing consumers, encouraging and working with honest businesses, targeting rogue traders and rogue trading practices and contributing to the health, welfare and wellbeing of citizens and communities.
TSI members are engaged in delivering frontline trading standards services in local authorities in response to 2 million consumer and business complaints and enquiries each year. They also support the delivery of new initiatives such as Consumer Direct, providing first point of contact practical consumer advice.
They also work in the business, consumer and central government sectors in promoting and influencing the safety, prosperity and enhancement of individuals and markets with a dependency on effective and professional trading standards contributions and interventions.
For more information, visit www.tradingstandards.gov.uk
Consumer Direct - 08454 04 05 06
Consumer Direct is a Government-backed telephone and online consumer advice service which works in partnership with Local Authority Trading Standards. It provides clear, practical and impartial advice and information to help consumers resolve problems and disagreements with suppliers of goods and services. Consumer Direct is available from 0800-1830 Monday to Friday, and 0900-1300 Saturday, excluding bank and public holidays.
Calls cost a maximum of 4p per minute from a BT landline. Calls from mobiles or other networks may vary. Your service provider may charge a minimum cost per call. The advice and information given