Ofcom has fined two telecom companies a total of £35,000 for taking over phone services of more than a hundred people without their knowledge or permission, a practice known as 'slamming'.
Ofcom's investigation into Guaranteed Telecom and Met Technologies found that both companies had 'slammed' at least 110 customers; many of them were elderly or vulnerable. Both companies had also prevented customers from switching to another telecoms provider after slamming them.
In addition to the fines, Ofcom ordered both companies to release slammed customers without any charges and provide refunds to any customers who paid early termination fees.
What is slamming?
Slamming is a very aggressive form of selling telephone services; customers phone lines are switched from one provider to another without the customer's knowledge or permission.
Ofcom has said that slamming is one of their priorities and has introduced new rules against slamming, including the ability to fine telecom companies up to 10% of their annual turnover if they break the rules.
How to avoid being slammed
- Be careful about giving out personal information over the telephone.
- Only agree to something if you are 100% sure who you are talking to and what you are signing up to.
- If you are not sure what you are agreeing to, ask the caller to send you information by email or post before agreeing to anything.
- Always ask to see some form of identification from doorstep sellers.
- Never give out your financial information unless you're absolutely sure that you want to switch telephone companies.
- Never sign up for anything unless you have been provided with information that you have read and understood.
If I've been slammed, what can I do?
There is an official process for switching telephone lines and broadband services that have been designed to protect customers from slamming.
When switching providers, you should receive two letters; One letter from your old provider and one letter from your new provider. Both letters will confirm that you are switching providers and give you the date that the switch-over will take place.
If you don't want to move to a new provider, tell the provider taking over your service that you did not agree to the transfer. If you do this within ten days of receiving the letter, the new provider will be able to cancel the transfer.
If the new provider refuses to cancel the transfer, ask your existing provider to cancel the transfer.
If your service has already transferred to a new provider, ask your original provider to transfer your services back to them.
Help Ofcom tackle slamming
Although Ofcom can't investigate individual slamming cases, you can help Ofcom to ensure that other people don't fall victim to slamming by raising a complaint. This can lead Ofcom into launching an investigation and taking action against companies breaking slamming rules.
Thoughts from TTNC
We think that slamming needs to be completely stamped out, particularly when slamming affects so many elderly and vulnerable people. We wish Ofcom would go further when punishing companies that engage in slamming customers; we don't think that fining a company up to 10% of their turnover is enough of a deterrent. As a provider, you can't accidentally start slamming customers; it is a conscious decision that someone within the company has made. We would prefer to see guilty companies banned from selling telecom services and action taken against the company's directors.