8/9/2007 1:32:00 PM
'It's our code, not Ofcom's' say operators
Retailers have pledged to back the operators' new code of practice to stamp out mis-selling in the industry, formally launched by Ofcom last week (Mobile, 3 August).
Phones 4u CEO Tim Whiting said: 'It is entirely appropriate to stamp out misrepresentation by unscrupulous resellers. This behaviour increases confusion in the minds of our consumers and can tarnish the reputation of the industry. We pride ourselves on high standards of customer service and welcome any initiatives which will increase transparency in the customer decision-making process.'
O2 has said that tackling 'slamming' is the main aim for operators. Clamping down on the practice of distance sellers making cold calls to customers claiming to represent O2 has been a priority for the network. Distance seller Communications Direct last month agreed to pay £215,000 for O2's legal costs and damages in a settlement after the network took the company to court.
One store employee said: 'This is a massive problem that we see in-store on a daily basis, often involving our most vulnerable customers who do not understand what has happened until it is too late.'
O2's head of regulatory affairs, Nick Blades (pictured), said the operator's experiences of the problem had prompted Ofcom to act on mis-selling. 'It is our code, not Ofcom's,' he insisted. While Ofcom has warned that formal intervention would soon follow should the industry initiative fail, Blades said: 'I hope we can self-regulate. I hope the industry can be trusted to do this.'
He highlighted the challenge that Ofcom could not regulate dealers acting on behalf of operators, but that the code of practice was 'about the relationships between the operators and their dealers'.
The code sets out prohibited sales and marketing practices, how retailers must comply and complaints processes.
The operators claim industry-wide plans to prevent mis-selling support their own individual activities. An Orange spokesman said: 'We have a clear code of conduct in place that such retailers are required to adhere to and we monitor our relationships on a day-to-day basis, treating complaints with the highest level of scrutiny.
'If a third-party retailer is found to be acting inappropriately or misleading our customers, we will take action against them.'