Cracking Down on “Mobile Marketing Malpractice”

fsimageresizeaspx.jpgConsider yourself warned.

Ofcom, an independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries, is cracking down on predatory mobile marketers. And some are speculating that it’s only a matter of time before similar actions are taken in the US.

With responsibilities across television, radio, telecommunications and wireless communications services, Ofcom has announced proposals for new rules to reduce or eradicate “misleading marketing practices in the mobile market.”

The crackdown comes after a similar stern warning from Ofcom last summer. The message? Mobile markers must clean up their act or face “mandatory rules.”

Notwithstanding that harsh admonition, Ofcom apparently believes that some mobile phone companies and “third party sales agents” continue to employ inappropriate practices that are unfavorable to the best interests of consumers.

Last summer, five mobile phone operators reportedly agreed to what has been called a “voluntary industry code,” which outlined a best practice approach to marketing and selling mobile services, either directly or through third-party sales agents.

Ever since, however, Ofcom has not noticed a reduction in consumer complaints, specifically as they pertain to being given false or inaccurate information about mobile phone contracts and other cash back promotions offered by sales agents – most of whom fail to reimburse the consumer as promised.

As a result, Ofcom is now proposing the introduction of a “General Condition,” which essentially is a legally enforceable rule that obligates communications providers to adhere to the Communications Act of 2003. According to Ofcom, “the penalty for breaching a General Condition can be a fine of up to a maximum of 10 percent of relevant turnover.”

“The UK has one of the more competitive mobile phone sectors in the world,” said Ofcom Chief Executive, Ed Richards. “But strong competition is no excuse for marketing malpractice.”

To that end, the proposed “General Condition” will necessitate mobile operators not to practice “misleading or deceptive conduct” and to ensure that those selling their products and services don’t either.