Phone fiddles getting worse, claims BT

New rules introduced 12 months ago to crack down on the scandal of home phone mis-selling have failed to tackle the problem, figures to be published today by BT will show.

The former state monopoly claims incidents of mis-selling have actually increased since Ofcom, the telecoms regulator, began requiring all home phone providers to comply with new sales and marketing codes of conduct.

BT will say it has received 201,000 complaints from customers about mis-selling since the new rules were introduced on 25 May last year, marginally up on the 193,000 complaints it received in the previous 12 months.

The complaints broadly fall into two categories. Some BT customers have complained after receiving letters from rival suppliers welcoming them to their services, even though they have not agreed to switch. The practice, known as "slamming", involves salesmen signing up customers to phone services without their knowledge or consent.

Others have complained that representatives of BT's rivals have attempted to pass themselves off as "working with BT". Some telecoms salesmen have attempted to con customers by wrongly suggesting they would not be leaving BT by switching call provider as BT continues to provide almost all phone lines in the UK.

Gavin Patterson, managing director of BT's consumer division, said the company was particularly angry about the increase in complaints because it had first raised the issue with Oftel, Ofcom's predecessor, in December 2003.

"It is frustrating for BT and upsetting for our customers that the mis-selling problem appears to have got worse over the past 12 months," Mr Patterson said. "It is time for the industry to listen to Ofcom and clean up its act and we think Ofcom shouldn't hesitate to fine the offenders."

A spokesman for Ofcom said it had taken action against companies it had found were in breach of the codes. "We have run an investigation across the whole industry and there have been a number of actions against individual companies," he said. "It is a priority for us to identify companies where mis-selling is occurring."