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Ofcom plans crackdown on rogue telcos

2007 could be a black year for operators that mislead customers or offer poor service
Written by Graeme Wearden, Contributor on

Communications regulator Ofcom is looking to step up the battle against rogue telecoms firms in 2007.

Speaking on Wednesday, chief executive Ed Richards said that Ofcom was determined to crack down on companies that give poor levels of service or that are guilty of practices such as mis-selling their services.

"What we don't need is the lack of trust we saw in elements of financial services and the early days of gas and electricity [liberalisation] where there was a lot of mis-selling," Richards told journalists, according to reports.

Ofcom was created in December 2003. In the last three years, a lot of its focus has been on regulating the various markets that it oversees. Now, with initiatives such as the Strategic Review of Telecommunications completed, it is planning to up the ante against those companies that abuse customers.

Mis-selling is a broad term which covers a range of misdeeds in the telecoms sector, including peddling false promises about a service when signing up new customers and taking control of a customer's telecoms service without their consent.

Other problems which Ofcom may clamp down on next year include the ongoing issue of silent calls. The regulator has also been pushing to make it easier for broadband customers to move between suppliers. It recently announced new regulations covering migration access codes (MACs), although it appears this will not yet help people if their broadband supplier goes out of business.

Ofcom confirmed on Thursday that consumer protection would be a major priority for 2007.

"Consumer protection is a vital part of what Ofcom does, and you will see renewed vigour in this area in 2007," said an Ofcom spokesman.

Ofcom has already taken action against individual telecoms operators. It investigated Bulldog after its poor service and customer support were exposed. Although the regulator set the ISP a range of targets it had to meet, the intervention did not lead to the imposition of any sanctions.

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