Fixed-line telephony subscribers are to be offered more protection against having their provider changed without their consent as part of a crackdown by industry watchdog Ofcom.
The practice of changing a consumer's supplier without their knowledge or consent is known as slamming. It is the most-complained-about practice in the fixed-line market, attracting more than 1,000 complaints per month, and Ofcom is aiming to stamp it out.
Proposed new rules for the market include ensuring providers keep better records, including voice recordings of all sales-related telephone calls. Ofcom claims this will enable it to take more decisive and effective action against any providers involved in mis-selling.
The watchdog has also called for mis-selling to be explicitly banned under the industry's General Conditions, with fines of up to a tenth of relevant revenue for any providers in contravention.
Ofcom also wants telcos to provide better information to consumers, including advice on possible termination charges and other consequences of switching supplier. It claims the proposals, if implemented, would significantly reduce the number of complaints it receives.
Ofcom is also hoping to clamp down on mis-selling in the mobile market. Almost two years ago, network operators signed up to a voluntary code of practice to try and allay customers' concerns about misleading and complex cashback schemes.
After this did not significantly reduce the number of complaints received, Ofcom proposed a set of mandatory rules a year ago known as the General Condition. Following that announcement, the number of complaints received by Ofcom about mobile cashback schemes has plummeted from 400 a month at the start of last year to just 28 in December.
Ofcom claims that the new rules have been a success in protecting mobile customers. The rules state that mobile providers must not engage in dishonest, misleading or deceptive conduct and must endeavour to ensure that their resellers do likewise.
Network operators are also compelled to offer customers all the information they require at the point of sale and ensure that customers intend and are authorised to enter into contracts. Due diligence checks for potential resellers are required and any cashback deals being offered must have terms and conditions that are not unnecessarily restrictive.
Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards said: "Ofcom wants to stamp out mis-selling in the telecoms market so that consumers can get the best that competition brings. Our announcements are designed to tackle misleading sales practices in landline and mobile services."
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