Own-initiative investigation into Nowtel Management Limited in respect of the sale and advertisement of its international calling cards

27 January 2012

Complainant: Ofcom own-initiative investigation
Complaint against: Nowtel Management Limited
Case opened:  7 March 2011
Investigation closed: 28 July 2011
Case closed: 26 January 2012
Issue:
Whether Nowtel has breached any relevant consumer protection legislation
Relevant instrument(s): Including, but not limited to, Part 8 of the Enterprise Act 2002, the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999.  

Update note: 27 January 2012

The deadline for Nowtel's compliance with the undertaking it gave to Ofcom in July 2011 was 1 October 2011.  Ofcom has engaged with Nowtel to understand the nature of the changes made to its commercial communications in light of the undertaking.

The undertaking included a requirement on Nowtel to change the advertising of its international calling cards to ensure material information, such as minutes available, fees and charges, is provided to consumers in a clear, intelligible and unambiguous manner.

Ofcom welcomes the changes Nowtel has made to its commercial communications and terms and conditions, and is of the view that Nowtel is now compliant with the undertaking.

Ofcom will continue to examine the terms and conditions and advertising practices of other international calling card providers as part of Ofcom's own-initiative monitoring and enforcement programme (see link to the ICC programme Bulletin  entry below).

End of update note

Update Note: 29 July 2011

Ofcom has concluded its investigation into Nowtel's international calling card advertisements and terms and conditions by accepting a written undertaking committing Nowtel to make changes to its advertisements.

Ofcom's investigation found that Nowtel's advertisement of its international calling cards is likely to constitute misleading actions and misleading omissions in potential contravention of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 ("CPRs").

Ofcom engaged in consultation with Nowtel to bring the potential contraventions to an end and to ensure there would be no repetition of those potential contraventions in the future. The outcome of this consultation is the commitment by Nowtel to comply with the law in the form of an undertaking enforceable in the courts.

Nowtel has cooperated fully with Ofcom’s investigation and has committed to undertake changes to its advertisements so they:

  1. clearly state to consumers the headline number of minutes that they will receive and that minutes are reduced by certain fees and/or charges in a manner which is clear, intelligible and unambiguous;
  2. provide consumers with material information in a manner which is clear, intelligible or unambiguous, including but not limited to, connection fees and maintenance charges; and
  3. ensure that material information such as terms and conditions is displayed in clearly legible font.

Nowtel has until 1 October 2011 to comply with the undertaking, which includes replacing its existing advertisements in the market place.

Having secured outcomes for consumers that are consistent with Ofcom’s statutory duties, Ofcom has now closed its investigation into Nowtel. Ofcom will actively monitor compliance with the requirements of the undertaking.

Text published when case was opened

As part of Ofcom’s monitoring and enforcement programme in respect to the international calling card industry ("the ICC Programme"), Ofcom has today opened an investigation into Nowtel Management Limited ("Nowtel").

Ofcom’s investigation will consider whether Nowtel's advertising practices and its terms and conditions infringe any relevant consumer protection law.

The ICC Programme was opened in January 2011, following the publication of the Synovate international calling card report commissioned by Ofcom. The ICC Programme is examining international calling card providers’ compliance with relevant consumer protection law.

Further updates on this case will be available in due course.

If you are a consumer and wish to discuss this case please contact Ofcom's Advisory Team on 020 7981 3040 or 0300 123 3333.

The Synovate report can be found here.
Details of the ICC Programme can be found here.

Case Leader: Carmen To ( e-mail: carmen.to@ofcom.org.uk)
Case Reference : CW/01069/03/11