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Ofcom report shows extent of phone/internet scams

Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) have said today’s report by OFCOM strengthens the recent CAS campaign for action to stop the telecommunications industry ripping off its customers.

CAS Chief Executive Lucy McTernan said,

“These findings echo the evidence report that we published earlier this month, which showed the extent of unfair trading practice in the telecommunications industry. Using real case evidence, our report showed how Scottish CAB advisers had to deal last year with nearly 8,000 cases of consumers who felt they had been ripped off in their own home, by being mis-sold phone or internet services. A number of different companies are responsible for these cases, showing that the problem is endemic throughout the industry.

“Our evidence shows that many providers are presenting their contracts and bills in ways which mislead people into buying more than they need, or entering into a contract for longer than they really want. Most families are really struggling financially at the moment. The last thing they need is to end up paying more than they expected - and for a longer period - for services they didn’t even ask for in the first place.

“So these figures just underline the fact that the industry needs to be regulated much more strictly – and that includes the option of punitive action against those companies who are deliberately flouting the guidelines. Businesses are entitled to trade, but customers are entitled to a fair deal. We need a legislative structure that allows both – and at the moment the balance is clearly not right.

“So we have arranged a meeting with OFCOM in May to discuss how we can work together with them to better protect consumers in Scotland. But government too has a role and we would urge them to make clear that they will not stand by and allow people to be mis-sold services any longer.

“In the meantime, our advice for anyone who is thinking of buying a phone or internet service is to make sure you read the contracts very closely, so that you know exactly what you are buying. Remember, you don’t have to sign up there and then – take it home and read it or get advice on it from someone else.

“For those who have already bought a service and are unhappy with it, we would encourage you to complain. We won’t achieve real change unless we shout loud and clear. And as ever, your local CAB will give you free, impartial and confidential advice on this or any other issue.”

Today’s OFCOM report shows the number of complaints received about phone/internet providers between October 2010 and February 2011.

The CAS evidence report, 'Telecommunication Problems’ (link no longer available) was published on 4 April.

Among other things, it shows that many Scots rely on their phone and internet services to connect with their family and friends, and with the rest of society. Around 94% of all over-65 year olds in Scotland use landlines, and for 40% of over-75 year olds it is their only means of telecommunication. 19% of Scottish households rely on their mobiles only.

For interviews etc., please contact Tony Hutson on 0131 550 1010.