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'
Sunday 24 July 2005
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; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain
Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy
New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning
Charlie Sheen could be set to revive his role as a hedonistic womaniser
Review: Alexandre Aja's film is a Twin Peaks-style mystery
Review: Mike Leigh's biopic is a rambling, rich character study
Former boxer recalls incident when he was seven years old
Mark Dampier: Woodford’s young companies could be the stars of the future
Shareholders can hold a company to account
10 tips for taking out a personal loan
Santander's new current account is not quite as easy as 1, 2, 3
Weekly Money: Round-up of the personal finance stories you may have missed 13-17 October
- 1 'Nasa Confirms Six Days of Darkness in December': No, they don't - it's a hoax
- 2 Canadian actor punched in face after 'Islamophobia' experiment goes wrong in wake of Ottawa shooting
- 3 Topshop at centre of row over body image as 'shocking' skinny mannequin photo goes viral
- 4 If you think Russell Brand’s new book is confused, you should read what his critics have to say about it
- 5 Kentucky gang rape: 15-year-old boy left in critical condition after sexual attack by group at party
Pope Francis declares evolution and Big Bang theory are real and God is not 'a magician with a magic wand'
Huge surge in Ukip support after EU funding row, according to new poll
Ukip ‘exploiting grooming scandal’ to secure party’s first police chief
Nigel Farage: 'There’s nothing wrong with white people blacking up'
Maureen Lipman says 'she can't vote Labour while Ed Miliband is leader'
Muslims, immigration and teenage pregnancy: British people are ignorant about almost everything
iJobs Money & Business
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: SThree, International Recruitme...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K: SThree: We consistently strive to be the...
£20000 - £23250 Per Annum pro rata: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pro rata ...
£40 - 48k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Manager to join...
Day In a Page
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000