BT has partnered with the Trading Standards Institute (TSI) to launch a campaign against what it describes as mis-selling by fixed-line telecoms companies.
The campaign petitions UK communications watchdog Ofcom to introduce new rules to eliminate what BT claims are scams which allow rogue firms to hijack consumers' phone lines.
BT reckons that around 800,000 of its customers have complained about the practice, while Ofcom's own figures suggest that around half a million households fall prey to mis-selling every year, costing consumers around £40m in total.
"It's criminal that this has been going on at this level for more than five years. I can't think of any other industry where this would be considered acceptable. It really is time that this was stamped out," said John Petter, managing director of BT's consumer division.
"We need to slam the slammers. The process we're proposing will put an end to mis-selling misery for good, protect consumers and safeguard fair competition."
The campaign proposes a new system similar to the PAC code used when transferring a mobile phone number to a new operator. If a user wants to switch phone companies they contact the existing supplier and are given a Pin which is then passed on to the new supplier.
"We are very much in favour of the telecoms industry adopting the consumer protection Pin code system," said Ron Gainsford, chief executive of the TSI. " We believe that it will stamp out at source the sort of rogue trading practice that has been plaguing telecoms consumers for more than five years."
BT reckons that this system could also be adopted as the standard switching process for all communications services, including 'bundled' options.
Last month Ofcom effectively deregulated the UK telecoms market by allowing BT to sell discounted services bundles for the first time.
This new campaign also follows on from the recent introduction by Ofcom of rules to combat a similar problem on mobile networks.
Mobile network operators introduced a voluntary Code of Practice in July 2007 to tackle mis-selling and cashback issues. The code had little impact, however, and Ofcom introduced a set of mandatory rules forcing mobile network operators to carry out certain due diligence checks in respect of their retailers, and ensure that consumers get the information they need at the point of sale.
"Hidden charges and contract quirks can often be at the root of mis-sold deals, as can falling for a free gift without considering the true value of the contract," said James Parker, mobiles manager at comparison site Moneysupermarket.com.
"These new rules give Ofcom the power to fine providers up to 10 per cent of their relevant turnover for a breach of the rules. This is a serious sanction that we hope Ofcom will exercise when necessary, and end this practice once and for all."
If BT's campaign is successful, Ofcom could introduce similar rules for fixed-line telecoms firms.
As part of the campaign, BT and the TSI have produced a free Talk to the Hand guide, which lays out five simple steps consumers can take to protect against landline mis-selling.
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