The issue of network poaching emerged again this week, with retailers claiming that networks are fixing credit checks to snatch customers from under their noses.
Dealers Mobile spoke to said the problem had significantly worsened in recent months.
They claimed that their customers are deliberately failed on credit checks, before the networks immediately lure the customer directly. The consumer invariably passes this check, resulting in the dealer losing the customer to the network.
One Midlands-based dealer said: ‘It’s been happening a lot more over the last three months. It never used to be this bad.’ Another retailer in the North West believes the network’s conduct is ‘savage’. Others described the practice as ‘highly unethical’ and ‘incredibly frustrating’.
In another alleged case last week, one retailer has claimed it was ‘given back’ a customer by Orange after complaining of poaching.
The incident occurred with a prominent business dealer, which complained
to its distributor, Hugh Symons.
Only hours after the complaint, Orange emailed the retailer, saying simply: ‘Sorry, this should never have occurred.’ The operator also provided a new customer reference number.
The senior business adviser at the company believes other dealers who feel they are victims of the practice must speak up. He said: ‘The sooner Orange realises it can’t use these heavy-handed tactics, the better. Dealers must kick up a fuss when this happens; they have to take it up with the people at the networks who make decisions.’
Both T-Mobile and 3 are also accused of poaching customers from dealers.
Roger Fletcher, head of independent retail at T-Mobile, said: ‘There is certainly no policy to do that at all. People’s credit rating does change from time to time and so it can happen. It’s a well-known issue that for obvious reasons is not popular and is very contentious. We have had complaints over the years, but very few.’
Orange declined to comment.