Investigation into Universal Telecom Limited regarding allegations of misconduct in selling and marketing of telecommunications services

08 February 2006

Complainant: Ofcom own-initiative investigation
Complaint against: Universal Telecom Limited ("Universal Telecom")
Case opened: 12 September 2005
Case closed: 6 February 2006
Issue: Whether Universal Telecom had complied with the requirement of General Condition 14.3 to have a Code of Practice for sales and marketing activity and whether its conduct complied with the provisions of such a Code.
Relevant instrument: General Condition 14.3 of the General Conditions of Entitlement governing the requirement to establish, and comply with, a code of practice for sales and marketing activity

Following the notice of contravention issued by Ofcom on 2 November 2005 to Universal Telecom, Ofcom has considered Universal Telecom's revised Sales and Marketing Code of Practice, available on Universal Telecom's website, and does not intend to take any further enforcement action under General Condition 14.3 (a) at this time.

However, under General Condition 14.3(b) Universal Telecom is required to comply with the provisions of its Sales and Marketing Code of Practice. Ofcom has received a number of complaints about Universal Telecom's sales and marketing activity during the course of this investigation. Ofcom has discussed its concerns about the nature of these complaints with Universal Telecom, and has received assurances that Universal Telecom is taking steps to address these concerns.

Whilst Ofcom has now closed this investigation, Ofcom will continue to monitor Universal Telecom's compliance with its Sales and Marketing Code of Practice. Where evidence suggests that Universal Telecom is not complying with the requirements of its Code of Practice, Ofcom may open a separate investigation.

Case Leader: Ruth Gibson ( e-mail:ruth.gibson@ofcom.org.uk)
Case Reference: CW/00860/08/05

Text published when the case was opened

Investigation into Universal Telecom Limited regarding allegations of misconduct in selling and marketing of telecommunications services

Complainant: Ofcom own-initiative investigation
Complaint against: Universal Telecom Limited (“Universal Telecom”)
Case opened: 12 September 2005
Issue: Whether Universal Telecom has complied with the requirement of General Condition 14.3 to have a Code of Practice for sales and marketing activity and whether its conduct complies with the provisions of such a Code.
Relevant instrument: General Condition 14.3 of the General Conditions of Entitlement governing the requirement to establish, and comply with, a code of practice for sales and marketing activity

Ofcom has opened this investigation following complaints from small businesses about fixed-line telecoms mis-selling by Universal Telecom Limited (company number 03513467), a communications provider based in High Wycombe.

Evidence gathered as part of Ofcom’s investigation suggests that Universal Telecom has failed to comply with the requirement to establish and maintain a Code of Practice for Sales and Marketing under GC 14.3(a).

On 2 November 2005 Ofcom therefore issued a notification of contravention to Universal Telecom under section 94(1) of the Communications Act 2003 ("the Act") setting out its failure to comply with GC14.3 and giving Universal Telecom until 5 December 2005 to comply with GC14.3.

If Universal Telecom does not comply with GC 14.3 by this date, Ofcom may issue an enforcement notification under section 95 of the Act and/or may impose a financial penalty under section 96 of the Act.

Universal Telecom has until 5 December 2005 to make representations to Ofcom about the matters set out in the notification.

A non-confidential version of the notification has been prepared and is available at the link below.

Ofcom will continue to examine Universal Telecom’s future compliance with the full requirements of GC 14.3.

Ofcom notes that this investigation concerns the activities of Universal Telecom Limited (company number 03513467). There are a number of alternative communication providers using the word ‘Universal’ in their name or brand, who have no link to Universal Telecom Limited. In particular, as far as Ofcom is aware there are no links between Universal Telecom Limited and Universal Utilities Limited, trading as Unicom, or between Universal Telecom Limited and Timepiece Servicos de Consultoria LDA, registered in Madeira, Portugal and trading in the UK as Universal Telecom.

This investigation continues a sequence of investigations Ofcom has commenced or will be pursuing into misconduct by individual communications providers. These investigations form part of a wider campaign that includes the active enforcement program (CW00838) to monitor compliance with new regulations designed to prevent mis-selling in fixed-line telecoms and protect consumers from abuses such as ‘slamming’.

Case Leader: Ruth Gibson ( e-mail:ruth.gibson@ofcom.org.uk
Case Reference: CW/00860/08/05