O2 today announced that it had obtained a signed legal undertaking from two company directors: Jeff Rees, a former director of Eazyconnect Limited; and Richard Thorpe, a Director of Shieldmp3 – both based in South Wales . O2 instructed its lawyers to pursue each company for mis-selling, or ‘passing itself off’ as O2 and infringing its trademark rights when selling mobile phone insurance.
O2 pursued legal action against Eazyconnect and Shieldmp3 after complaints from O2’s customers to O2’s nuisance call bureau about unsolicited calls offering mobile handset insurance. In some instances, the callers appeared to be passing themselves off as O2 and infringing O2’s trademark. In fact, calls were being made from sales people from numbers linked to Eazyconnect and “Coversafe”, a trading name sometimes used by Eazyconnect, or from numbers linked to Shieldmp3. In some instances customers were persuaded to take out handset insurance thinking that they had taken it out with O2, which was not the case.
Mr Rees, the former Director of Eazyconnect, and Mr Thorpe, a director of Shieldmp3, have agreed terms with O2 in order to avoid litigation and have signed personal undertakings committing not to infringe O2’s trade mark or to pass off any of O2’s goods or services now or in the future through such practices. Eazyconnect went into liquidation on 23 October 2007 and is no longer trading.
O2 offers its own handset insurance product, “O2 Insure” and does not authorise any third party company to sell O2 Insure, which is sold directly by O2. While there is nothing to prevent another company from attempting to sell insurance to O2’s customers, they must not pass themselves off as calling from O2 or say that they are authorised to call on behalf of O2 when that is not the case. In effect, they are not allowed to make any statements to O2 customers which would mislead them, i.e. make them think that the caller is in some way associated with O2.
The move follows legal action taken last year against Landmark Marketing Services Ltd and Communications Direct Ltd, who both admitted liability for trademark infringement and passing off related to the mis-selling of mobile phone contracts, a practice known as ‘slamming’.
O2 remains determined to combat instances of mis-selling and will continue to actively pursue offending companies and individuals in appropriate cases.
O2’s advice to customers receiving such a call is as follows:
• Make sure you know who is calling, and request to call them back if necessary
• Don’t give out any personal details unless you are confident that you have established the true origin of the call, i.e that it is a genuine call from O2
• If, for any reason, you receive a call where a company is passing themselves off as O2 or you sign up to something and later find out it is a scam, you should call O2 customer services who will tell you how to formally report the matter to our Nuisance Call Bureau
As well as notifying O2, customers should also complain directly to their local Trading Standards office, the Office of Communications (“Ofcom”), the Office of Fair Trading and the Information Commissioner. They may also complain in writing directly to the CEO of the company who has cold called them.
O2’s programme of action against mis-selling led to the mobile phone industry introducing a code of practice to help further protect mobile phone customers in July 2007. Ofcom continue to keep the level of mis-selling complaints under review and are also considering regulation in this area.
Cold calling O2 customers is unlawful if the cold caller:
• Breaks the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations.
• Pretends that they are O2 or connected to O2.
• Misleads the customer into believing false statements and then induces the customer to enter into a contract on the basis of those incorrect facts.
• Attempts to obtain information by misleading the customer or through fraudulent behaviour.
• Continues to call the customer after they have indicated that they do not wish to receive future calls.
• Fails to advise the customer that he has 7 days within which to terminate the contract.
O2 offers advice on its website: http://www.o2.co.uk/help/nuisancecalls