O2 cracks down to prevent mis-selling by companies who 'cold call'

O2 is warning customers to be on their guard against unsolicited calls from companies claiming to be connected with or representing O2 and has set up a process to encourage its customers to report this type of activity. O2 has been receiving a rising number of customer complaints regarding companies who make cold calls to O2 customers and claim to represent or be associated with O2. These cold callers offer to upgrade the customer’s O2 package when in fact they represent other networks. If the customer agrees to the “O2” upgrade, the customer is actually transferred to another network instead. In some cases, the customer does not realise that they have been misled into signing a new contract with another network (a practice called “slamming”) until their new handset and paperwork arrives. Feedback received from customers who have been mis-sold or slammed indicates dissatisfaction with inferior network coverage on the new network, the quality and/or specification of the phone and the level of customer service provided. Through O2’s Nuisance Call Bureau, which provides help and advice for customers who receive nuisance calls or text messages, customers can now report any instances of alleged cold call mis-selling or slamming to a specially trained team. O2 has for some time been compiling a list of companies who have been reported by customers and is actively investigating them. O2 commenced court proceedings against one such company, Landmark Marketing Services Ltd (trading as Landmark Communications), in December 2005. Landmark offers airtime contracts on behalf of the 3 and Orange networks. Landmark had persistently targeted O2 customers and through their actions, had churned significant numbers of customers to these networks without the customers knowing that they would be leaving O2. Landmark has recently entered into a settlement agreement with O2 where it has agreed to put a stop to the practice of mis-selling outlined above and has paid £500,000 by way of compensation to O2. O2’s action against Landmark is just the first step in a committed programme of legal moves to prevent mis-selling and slamming by companies that cold-call. As such, O2 is currently involved in pre-litigation correspondence with another company that has actively engaged in mis-selling and slamming and is also lining up several other companies for action in the near future. Customer complaints are key to tackling this practice and O2 strongly encourages customers to report this type of activity by either calling O2 customer services on the number printed on their monthly invoices or by directly emailing the O2 Nuisance Call Bureau at ncb@o2.com. Even if the customer does not have the name of the company that cold called them, the Nuisance Call Bureau can assist in tracking down the company name via the telephone number used to call the O2 customer. As well as notifying O2, customers are also advised to complain directly to their local Trading Standards office, the Office of Communications (“Ofcom”), the Office of Fair Trading and the Information Commissioner. In addition to this, customers may choose to complain in writing directly to the CEO of the company who has cold called them and the network to whom they have been transferred by obtaining the relevant addresses from the Companies House Web Check Service.