back to article Ofcom to hold operators responsible for dodgy dealers

Ofcom wants to make mobile network operators responsible for their resellers, reporting that a voluntary code of practice for the industry has failed to reduce complaints. The voluntary code was introduced in July last year but enforcement was up to the network operators, who have been inconsistent in their approach. Ofcom won …


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  1. W

    Hardly a scandal...

    "Only about 95 per cent of cashback is ever claimed..."

    "Ofcom reckons that 79 per cent of cashback customers get their money..."

    I'm assuming the difference is due to the 21% of folk only being owed the piddling 5% between 'em so not bothering to claim back.

    Even so, I'm really quite surprised that as many as that actuallt bother to jump through the hoops. Hardly a scandal compared to the UNLIMITED* broadband nonsense, is it?

    I signed up for a claim-yer-cash-back deal a good few years ago. Got my money back without any overly dodgy shenanigans but it was just hassle that I can't be bothered with anymore.

    Upfront pricing transparency please.

    *not really unlimited

  2. Danny Thompson

    Absolutely Barking

    Why do OFCOM have such an inane ability to find all the wrong trees to bark up at? The mobile network operators have been putting the independent dealers under no end of pressure since the voluntary code came into being. Many have simply given up and gone into selling vegetables* instead. Meanwhile the operators have been blostering up their own high street presence, effectively insourcing the point of sale.

    "W" above hits the nail firmly on the head - the obscenity called "Unlimited" is ignored by OFCOM while it goes for softer targets. Shame!

    * If not vegetables than anything other than Mobile Phones it would seem from localised evidence.

  3. Cameron Colley

    Caveat emptor?

    If you're stupid enough to fall for "cashback" on anything you're probably too stupid to be let loose with money anyhow.

  4. pctechxp

    mobile phone dealers and the unlimied claims of the broadband providers

    <verbose rant>

    1) Yes dealers should be regulated so that the customer does not get ripped off, if they are promising cashback then they should be around to pay that cash back at the time, not selling customers expensive contacts, filling their boots and then buggering off.

    2) I really do wish that people would stop whining about the use of the word unlimited (no I dont work for an ISP), the people that fall foul of the Acceptable Usage Policies are the dimwits that run P2P 24/7 and download hundreds of gigabytes of data per month and upload the same (one of my colleagues has been kicked off 3 ISPs for doing just that), put it this way, if you were managing an SPs network, what would you do as they have to pay out for more and more transit bandwidth and bigger feeds from the telco networks into their network to ensure service quality, for goodness sake, if you are going to criticise, make a suggestion about how you would run things or just shut up and buy your own fibre connection into a backbone provider such as Level 3 and see how long you can afford the fees and how long they will put up with excessive P2P traffic.

    </verbose rant?

  5. Tom

    To Danny

    You obviously have never helped a less technically (or bloody) minded friend reclaim their cash. You have to jump through so many hoops and read such tiny small print that the whole process is clearly designed to rip people off.

    Yes, people should think about why a company is offering them "free money" to sign on the dotted line, but when it goes pear-shaped so often and for so many people, regulators have a duty to step in.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Half a job

    Its a shame OFCOM wont also make networks responsible for refunding charges taken (stolen) by scam premium rate text companies for unsolicited/unwanted/unrequested Premium rate text services.

    Maybe it needs the pain from financial loss to move them from the "nothing to do with us" position they occupy - while happily pocketing their portion of the money scammed from their customers (life blood of their businesses), but as ever with OFCOM - Its only half a job.

  7. Morely Dotes

    Strange days

    Apparently, the UK legal system which as a rule seems more sensible than the one we have in the US, does not have the concept of holding a firm or employer responsible for the actions of its agents while they are on the job.

    Resellers are acting as the agents of the cellular carriers; as such, if I am sold a service plan with Verizon which includes a promised rebate, Verizon is responsible for ensuring I get that rebate (or explaining to the FTC why they thought it was a good idea to deny my claim). Needless to say, the resellers are kept on a very short leash because of that.

  8. Tony Schofield

    I got all my casback

    Both my wife and I tokk cash back deals on Sony Ericcson phones through onestopphone shop and on the Orange network. We both complied with the conditions and got the promised cashback without any problem. However my wife more recently completed another cash back deal through another smaller re-seller - now in difficulty - and has only received one cash back cheque.

    My advise is to use one of the bigger - better known (or backed) resellers.

  9. Mike Crawshaw

    @ W & pctechxp

    W: I'd say the difference between the 95% claimed and 79% getting their cashback is probably due to the hoops the reseller makes the punter jump through, meaning that a number start the claim, but are unable to get their money back due to one caveat or another. "Oh, you're claiming three days after the expiry, hard lines!" etc. Claiming cashback is one thing - getting it is another, as Tom mentions above.

    pctechxp: The "Unlimited" doesn't just apply to broadband. EVERY mobile operator has jumped on this, and advertises "unlimited calls! unlimited text! Talk all day! Text everyone in the world and it won't cost a penny!!!" - subject to FUP which means it isn't anything of the kind. The fact that the broadband market has got away with this for so long means it's encroached itself into other markets as well, and is continuing to do so. Seen BT's latest weekend calls promo? "FREE UNLIMITED WEEKEND CALLS!!!!" (subject to FUP and hanging up and redialling every hour...). So it ain't just the broadband hogs who are complaining about "unlimited" now meaning "quite a bit, but we're not going to tell you exactly how much".

    Reg readers are generally astute enough to read the fine print, but most punters take the advertising at their word, and are quite surprised to find charges on their "unlimited use" deal of whatever kind.

    Smiley cos I'm on my 3rd coffee and the day is starting to seem bearable...

  10. Magnus

    Cashback schemes

    I used to work for e2save (a few years back now) and yes, we did rely on a significant slice of people never bothering to claim their cashback.

    The competition certainly used to be so fierce that when we tracked how many people were actually claiming and that we could improve our deals slightly while still turning a profit we did so. We did get stung on some deals where far more people claimed than we estimated, but that's life. I won't say e2save did not ever turn down a valid claim while I was there but we never did so intentionally.

    The part of our FAQ covering cashback was the part of the FAQ that was the most worked on. It is surprisingly difficult to phrase a set of un-ambiguous instructions, especially when networks sometimes send an additional bil or sometimes don't... Sending in the wrong bill at the wrong time and people having not paid their previous bill (the commission we receive gets clawed back if a customer has unpaid bills) were the two most common reason for rejection.

    Anyways, I'm another person unhappy about the "Unlimited" thing. If the carrier advertises it why should it blame people for taking them at their word? All a fair use policy does is to give the carrier a way to modify the service they provide to their customers without having to notify them or get them to agree to new terms, since the limits are never set down. The amount you can download and the time you are allowed to spend connected are the fundamental measures of the service they are charging for, they should not be allowed to leave those ambiguous.

  11. pctechxp


    Everything costs money, whether its backhaul for data or voice so how the heck let alone the capacity requirements of a cell, router, fibre or copper connection.

    If everyone had their connection open 24/7 then the infrastructure would gridn to a halt and/or the money to run it would run out.

    I suspect the limit on SMS is to deter use for spamming (though you could buy x number of PAYG SIMs and spam all you like.

    As the saying goes 'there's no such thing as a free lunch'

  12. Magnus


    Everything does cost money and indeed there is no such thing as free lunch. I believe 90% of people on both sides of the debate agree with that.

    That being the case I don't believe ISPs should be able to claim in their advertising bold print that they are offering a 24/7 always open, 8 or 24 MB connection (depending on which network you are on), with no download limits. Because fundamentally that is not what they offer and not what we are paying for. We are paying for between 4 gigabyte and 40 gygabytes of download capacity, bandwidth generally 60% of that advertised.

    Currently it is almost impossible to hold your provider to account (since they rarely spell out exactly what their fair use policy is or when they change it) or to tell what kind of service a provider is actually offering because all the literature looks the same even though the "fair use" policies (which set out what the actual service terms are and which should be the headline stuff on their advert) and so forth vary wildly,

  13. Mike Crawshaw


    Yes it all costs money.

    My point is NOT: "it should be free unlimited like they say it is."

    My point IS: "they should not be telling us it is free / unlimited and then hiding behind the small print when people do what their adverts are telling us we can."

    It ain't free, it ain't unlimited - so stop telling us it is. Like I said above, most Reg readers know what the reality is, but most Joe Public types don't, and this advertising is misleading for the 75% of the target audience that are of that type.

    Stop this nonsense? Indeed.

  14. pctechxp


    As I say above I think it is the P2P users that costantly download that have caused ISPs to take a more heavy handed approach and as you say 'hide behind the small print'

    I do think that these people should be booted, not because what they maybe doing is illegal , heck if you want to break the law then thats up to you but for the simple reason that you are hogging upstream bandwidth that another user could be using for browsing or watching a webcast that keeps me informed of latest developments in micrprocessors or whatever so that I know what to expect when a customer rings up using a brand new shiny PC with a just released CPU.

    You wanna download all available seasons of lost/doctor who or whatever, fine but someone set up an ISP just for filesharers and watch it rapidly grind to a halt or go out of business when the connections are used to capacity 24/7.

    I dont think any normal user, including tech savvy ones who read El Reg will ever fall foul of the unlimited trap.

  15. William Morton


    With regard to P2P I use torrents only for downloading linux distos, I am not a criminal and do not use my internet connection for porn/ cop[yright material.

    The ISP wants to demonise the minority so as to justify their false advertising, I agree that a lot of heavy internet users are on P2P however they have paid for the piviliege. If the service is unlimited then that should mean you can download whatever your connection will support, the ISP is just being cheap and cattering to the majority who want to read a email or two and look at a couple of web sites.

    The ISP's should be made to say if you are a minimal user then your broardband is virtually free, however if you are a heavy user then you have to pay for it.

    Most web users in this country would be fine with dial up and have only bought into ADSL on the premise that is it quick and sexy. I personally don't mind paying more for an uncapped service however I would prefer my connection to be comparable to the ones enjoyed by the Japanease i.e. atleast 20x faster.

    The ISP are raking the money in and b1tching about how it difficult it is to make money out of being a provider.

    I don't believe it, if BT Wholesale we forced to charge a reasonable rate then everyone not in a city could have a reasonably price connection.

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