Oftel issues Christmas warning to mobile operators

Expected 3.5m purchasers need accurate information

The Oftel Director General last night announced that he has demanded to see the plans the four UK mobile phone companies have put in place to cope with the Christmas demand. If these plans are not satisfactory Oftel will order the companies to make the necessary improvements.

Oftel is working to ensure that the expected 3.5m purchasers, according to a recent Orange report, of pre-pay mobile phones in the run up to Christmas do not experience the problems faced by consumers last year. The surge of demand in 1998 left the mobile phone companies struggling to cope with demand at peak times.

The Director General, David Edmunds, said at an industry dinner last night that, "consumers need accurate information from mobile phone suppliers on the level of service they can expect to receive when purchasing their pre-pay phone."

Under powers granted it under the Telecommunications Act, Oftel has officially requested the mobile phone operators provide details of the plans they have in place to cope with Christmas demand. Operators will be expected to provide their estimated demand for registrations and credit top-ups during the period, how these estimates were arrived at, and the number of staff and phone lines that have been allocated to satisfy this demand.

Oftel said that it had a team of officials which were aware of the minimum required resources for each operator, and that it was quite prepared to act against operators which did not have adequate resources to satisfy customer demand.

"We have powers to name and shame companies," said an Oftel spokesman. "We are quite at will to inform consumers if one of these operators are not up to scratch," he said.