Analyst firm Gartner has added its weight to the criticism of database giant Oracle's sales teams, accusing them of over-selling licences to prop up flagging revenues.
In a statement, Gartner said it believed "Oracle sales staff had inappropriately imposed extra licence fees" on some customers.
According to the analyst, the sales reps have used software licences to squeeze more money from customers.
Gartner claims that this has been achieved through tactics such as limiting the choice of whether to adopt processor-based or named-user pricing.
Other methods, the analysts claim, have included selling more licences than users need, and giving lower than anticipated discounts on these volume purchases.
Gartner also reported that it had received complaints from customers who had been asked to pay for additional named-user licences.
The analyst said customers using data warehouses from Cognos and Brio Software had been asked to pay for extra Oracle licences even though the data had been removed from the Oracle environment.
"Enterprises should be wary of any additional costs levied," said Gartner.
Oracle has been quick to distance itself from any unscrupulous sales practices. The management "does not condone or encourage this type of sales force behaviour", it said in a statement.
The company has done a lot to counter accusations of having an aggressive sales policy, according to Ronan Miles, Oracle UK User Group chairman.
Previously, there had been a culture where getting the sale was "the be all and end all", but such practices were "no longer standard", he said, adding that, in his experience, customers had been "dealt with properly" when they had a complaint.
In a statement, Oracle insisted that there was no orchestrated campaign to drive up licence revenues.
"It is a top priority for our sales force to always consider customers' needs first, regardless of the economic climate," the company said. But Oracle was unable to provide a spokesman to discuss this matter further.
In its most recent accounts, for the period ending February 2002, Oracle reported a significant drop in revenues, down from £780m in 2001 to £549m in 2002. For the year to date, revenues were down by nearly half a billion pounds.
Another analyst firm, Meta Group, had also warned Oracle users that some were being charged for additional licences. "Oracle has made it clear that sales reps do not understand their own licensing terms," said Charles Garry, program director at Meta.
Jacqueline Woods, Oracle's vice president in charge of pricing, denied that the company had changed its terms, claiming that some customers had "unintentionally mis-licensed themselves".
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