Back on July 2007, a voluntary set of measures were put in place to try and cut the number of customers complaining they had been mis-sold their phone contracts.
However, the complaints kept coming and now the watchdog has decided to step in and regulate the problem itself.
So what’s been going on?
The aim of the rules is to prevent anyone selling mobile phone services from “dishonest, misleading or deceptive conduct”.
That’s down to people claiming they had been signed up to tariffs under false pretences. For example, some customers say they were told there was good coverage in their area but then found there’s none.
Others agreed to a contract but then discovered they had been signed up to a more expensive tariff than they had thought.
Still more have complained that, when they renewed their 12-month contracts, they were signed up to new contracts lasting longer than one year, without being made aware of it.
What are the new rules?
The rules clearly state that providers mustn’t mis-sell mobile phone services. They have a responsibility to make sure customers are authorised to enter into a contract and give them all the information they need at the point of sale.
In addition, they have to check that the terms and conditions of cashback deals being offered by retailers are not “unduly restrictive” and carry out checks on those retailers to make sure they are keeping to the rules.
Ofcom has the power to fine providers up to 10% of their relevant turnover if they fail to follow these rules.
How do I complain?
If you think you’ve been mis-sold your service, either by the mobile phone company or by a company selling on its behalf, your first action should be to inform the provider and follow its complaints procedure.
After that, if you are still unhappy and feel it has not been resolved, you have a couple of options. Customers and small businesses can ask an alternative dispute resolution scheme to step in, such as Otelo, the office of the telecommunications ombudsman.
When it comes to complaining about resellers, you should always let the service provider know about your experiences, but you can also contact Consumer Direct, which is funded by the Office of Fair Trading. It should offer advice and may also be able to help you find a resolution.