Phone salesmen and the call you don't get to make

First they tangle you up in spiel, then they switch you to a new landline provider without your knowledge. Sam Dunn reports on the technique of 'slamming'

Think your consent is needed for decisions that affect your finances? Some phone companies don't. Ferocious competition between providers of cheap landline packages vying to sign up new customers has spawned a financial monster: "slamming".

A mix of underhand sales tactics and consumer confusion has led to thousands of people being signed up to a rival home- phone service without their permission.

They have been complaining en masse to their provider (usually BT) and the industry regulator, Ofcom, which is now promising to investigate individual allegations.

Last month, BT says it received 21,259 calls from customers - more than 700 a day - who were "angry" or "confused" about a switch. Between January and March, the company was fielding an average of 15,000 of these complaints each month.

Slamming has tended to be carried out by door-to-door salesmen and cold-calling teams working for telecoms companies. In particular, sales staff have offered seemingly innocuous information about a rival home-phone firm's services - no signature required - only for consumers to discover two unwelcome letters on their doormat days later.

While one is a cheery "Thanks for joining!" from their new landline pro-vider, the other is a "Sorry to hear you're off" letter from their old company.

Other popular slamming techniques have included staff making reassuring references to BT, so that customers were given the impression that their existing BT deal was being upgraded, when in fact they were being switched to a rival service. And another strategy has been to seek bank details for "verification" - and then set up a direct debit for a new deal.

BT, whose dominant share of the home-phone residential market has made it a target for rivals, began High Court proceedings against Caudwell Communications last month, alleging that Caudwell's staff had imitated the telecoms giant's own employees in a bid to win new customers. It is now trying to reach an agreement out of court.

Ofcom, itself receiving between 500 and 600 calls a month on the subject from consumers, has started to crack down.

To determine the scale of the problem, the regulator had earlier probed a litany of grievances from BT customers about slamming and mis-selling. And although its research suggested that only half of these complaints were genuine, it was enough.

"This is a very serious issue and more than justifies the action we have taken," says a spokesman.

This action is that all fixed-line telecoms pro- viders must now follow a code of practice for sales and marketing, under which customers are treated responsibly - with fairness and transparency.

Any allegations of slamming or mis-selling will now be investigated on a case-by-case basis. Companies that constantly breach the code face fines of up to 10 per cent of their turnover.

If, by May 2007, there have been signs of improvement, then the rules may be abolished.

However, Ofcom has its work cut out. Already, it is having to scrutinise scores of companies to check their compliance with its guidelines, and that's on top of examining new allegations of mis-selling.

The chaos in the UK's home-phone market - worth £4.3bn, according to recent industry estimates - is largely down to the regulatory shake-up that was designed to introduce competition and cheaper prices. Although BT still has the biggest share of the home-landline market (around 70 per cent in January this year),

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

PROMOTED VIDEO
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Software Development Manager

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Ashdown Group: Product Manager - (Product Marketing, Financial Services)

    £30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...

    Recruitment Genius: Compliance Assistant

    £13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established ...

    Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive

    £23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee