O2 has warned dealers against acting in a predatory manner after a number of companies targeted rivals’ customers for Sim-only deals and re-signs.
The operator has issued a new policy to its dealer community and told Mobile it was a means to focus dealers on targeting the business of rival operators, rather than cannibalising its own base.
O2 has warned dealers they can only re-sign out of contract businesses that are on their books. Any requests by a dealer to re-sign a customer that does not belong to it will be rejected. The policy, which has been seen by Mobile, said: ‘It’s therefore important that you keep your customers in contract at all times and re-sign them before they reach the contract end date.’
The operator has also implemented a rule that Sim-only deals can only be offered to customers on a dealer’s base. The policy said: ‘A customer who is out of contract and is attempted to be re-signed by a different partner on Sim-only as a means to secure the deal will be treated as a predatory move.’
Dealers contacted by Mobile reacted with bemusement to the new policy. One said: ‘O2 has had one of its key partners complaining to them about other partners trying to take business from them. The key partner doesn’t want to be competitive and has therefore cried about it to O2.’
Another dealer suggested customers of fellow O2 dealers should be treated as fair game, just like companies who are b2b clients of the likes of Vodafone or Orange. He said: ‘The problem is that there aren’t any new customers. Anyone who wants a phone now has one. The only way to grow your business is to steal other customers, whether it’s people on O2 or other networks.’
One dealer said there was a fear among the community that the policy could lead to rival networks poaching customers more easily. Another suggested the move could allow companies to run their contracts down and then deal with O2 directly. He said: ‘The commercials that O2 directly offers wipe the floor with standard re-sign commercials. O2 is playing a dangerous game by getting into bed with a small amount of key partners.’
Speaking to Mobile, Maggie Kennedy, head of partners for O2 UK, refused to single out which dealers had been engaged in predatory activity. She said: ‘We are committed to winning customers by being the best and we want every channel to be concentrating on finding new customers… This has always been a very competitive market and is likely to remain so. We believe the way to win is to increase our market share, not divide up existing market share between us.’
Kennedy (pictured) said the policy had been introduced to ensure dealers focus on finding new business. ‘[Predatory activity] is a problem in that channels that focus on simply moving customers around and creating base splits impact the customer experience and create confusion, as well as serving no real purpose.’
When asked if there was any means of sanction that O2 could bring against repeat offenders, she replied: ‘We hope that won’t be necessary.’