Telecom poaching clashBT accuses Onetel of poaching customers

13 October 2005

Two of the country's largest phone companies are embroiled in a war of words over claims one was using dodgy tactics to poach the other's customers.

This week BT said it received an undertaking from Centrica Communications - who own Onetel - not to mis-sell phone services to its customers.

BT claimed Onetel sales agents had been misleading customers into thinking that Centrica was connected to BT.

It threatened legal action but said Centrica had now agreed not to pass itself off as BT and had also agreed to include in its sales script wording which makes clear that Centrica is a competitor.

Ian Livingston, chief executive of BT Retail, said. 'BT is delighted that a settlement has been reached - our customers deserve as much protection as possible in this area.

'BT is making it clear that we won't hesitate to take a stand where customer protection and our brand is at stake'.

However, Centrica said it signed the undertaking as it had 'no desire to present ourselves as having anything to do with BT.'

Strict controls

It added that its sales scripts and contracts already advise that Onetel is not part of BT and questioned why BT had gone public with the undertaking.

Onetel MD Ian El-Mokadem, said: 'Onetel already has the strictest controls in place and on that basis we have signed the undertakings. One has to ask why, having cooperated in this way, BT insisted on publicising this matter.

'Our strong belief is that BT's actions are nothing to do with consumer protection and everything to do with damaging their most successful competitor. Every two minutes a new customer signs up to join Onetel and leave BT.'