Phone or broadband switching without consent

01 September 2015

There are now lots of companies competing to offer telephone and broadband services to consumers.

Competition has many benefits, including choice and ultimately lower prices.

Companies use a variety of sales and marketing activities to gain customers and while the majority of these are carried out responsibly, some companies may attempt to gain customers through dishonest activities such as mis-selling.

There are various forms of mis-selling, one of which is known as “slamming” which is where customers are switched - or attempted to be switched - from one company to another without their express knowledge and/or consent.

In some cases, you might only be aware of this once you’ve received a bill from a different company.

Ofcom considers slamming to be totally unacceptable and an extreme form of mis-selling.

Tackling slamming remains an important priority are for Ofcom and we have introduced tough rules to clamp down on slamming. Telecoms firms found breaching our rules can face fines of up to 10 per cent of their annual turnover

In March 2010 Ofcom introduced strengthened regulations (for residential and small business customers) designed to protect consumers from the risks of mis-selling and slamming of telephone services. These regulations were further strengthened in June 2015 extending the rules to mis-selling and slamming of broadband services.
The rules, called General Condition 22:

  • prohibit inappropriate sales and marketing activity, including slamming;
  • set out the type and level of information that needs to be made available to new customers both at the point of sale and after the sale has been concluded (but before the service has actually been transferred). This includes providing important information about the key terms and conditions of the service, including contractual liabilities and cancellation rights;
  • specify record-keeping requirements for sales and marketing activities. This includes, a requirement for a provider to hold a record of the customers consent to transfer their service from their current provider to the new provider.
  • make clear when providers are allowed to cancel orders placed by other providers. Cancelling orders for purposes other than those expressly specified by the regulations are prohibited

Ofcom actively monitors compliance with these rules through our monitoring and enforcement programme which allows us to take action against companies who do not comply with the regulations.

Ofcom also speaks to phone companies regularly. The data we collect from them about mis-selling also helps us decide whether an investigation is required

Here are some tips to help you avoid being “slammed”:

  • Be wary of giving out personal information over the phone
  • Only agree to something over the phone if you’re sure who you are talking to and what you’re signing up for; if you’re not sure, ask the caller to post the information to you first before agreeing to sign up to anything
  • Ask to see identification from doorstep sellers to check that they are representing the company they say they are
  • Don’t give out your direct debit details unless you’re certain you want to switch phone companies
  • Don’t sign anything unless you’ve read it and are sure of what you’re signing up for

There are a number of safeguards built into the switching process for telephone and broadband services, which have been designed to ensure that you are protected from being “slammed”:

You will receive a letter from your old phone company, and also one from the new company informing you that you are moving provider and the date that the transfer is due to take place.

If you don’t want to move to a new phone company, you should contact the provider who has taken over your service and tell them you did not agree to the transfer.  If you do this within 10 days they will be able to put a stop to the transfer and you can carry on as before.

If the provider refuses to cancel the transfer, you can contact your current provider and ask them to cancel the transfer. This should be possible up until 24 hours before the transfer is due to complete but it is best to do this at least 48 hours before the scheduled transfer date.

If the service has already transferred, ask your original provider to transfer you back to them.

If you are aware of the company involved and wish to take the matter further, you should follow their official complaints procedure. If your dispute is still unresolved, and you are a residential or small business customer, you can raise the matter with the relevant Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme  If you are a business customer of over 10 employees then you will need to seek your own independent legal advice.

Consumers continue to play a vital role in helping us tackle slamming.

Although we can’t investigate individual cases, your complaints can lead to us launching investigations and ultimately to us taking action.

By working with us to tackle slamming, you can help bring about much wider benefits for millions of consumers and ensure that others don’t fall victim to this form of mis-selling.

I want to complain about slamming