On Wednesday I blogged about my phone line being taken over without my consent, and then asked BT and regulator Ofcom to comment.
While BT failed to respond by my deadline, Ofcom provided a detailed explanation of what actually happened, its processes for handling complaints, and industry initiatives to cut instances of slamming and erroneous line transfers (ELTs)
The regulator explained I am the victim of an ELT rather than slamming. ELTs are a, problem caused by address mismatching problems, which ”can occur, for example, when a consumer is moving into a new property leading to the wrong customer’s line being taken over,” an Ofcom statement explains, noting this is most common in multi-occupancy sites, like blocks of flats.
In this case, the error occurred in the online order form completed by my neighbor, who contacted BT to correct the mistake when I received two letters for him at my house number.
Ofcom’s statement gives me pause to wonder if my own provider is equally at fault, as it explains my firm should have been sending me similar letters about the change, so I have more digging to do in that area as Ofcom states that my firm would have been able to cancel the transfer order if I’d told it I didn’t want to switch.
However, the regular’s statement also notes that BT is not entirely blame free, as even if my provider is found wanting in the letters department, “this does not exonerate the fact that your neighbor informed BT of the error and it did not take the appropriate steps to correct it.”
Any charges I rack up while I have the use of my neighbors phone “will be billed to the account holder.” If BT takes the money from him, he will have to work that through with the telco via its complaints process, the statement adds.
I also raised concerns over privacy and data protection in my original blog on this matter. Ofcom explained those concerns fall under the jurisdiction of the Information Commissioner’s Office.
The regulator concluded by outlining its efforts to prevent ELTs, including developing a best practice guide for line takeovers, developing systems to improve address matching accuracy, providing a helpline to assist comms firms in finding the right line to takeover, and introducing processes to speed up reconnection for ELT victims.
I’d welcome the quick implementation of that last point – my provider says it will take until July 31 before normal service is resumed.