Sussex-based dealership Autocall has come under fire from fellow dealers for marketing activities they claim were underhand and unethical.
Dealers last week claimed Autocall, a Hove-based dealership that has been running for 10 years, posed as a start-up kitchenware company and invited around 10 dealers into meetings to pitch for its mobile contract of 60 handsets.
Autocall sales executives requested dealers to submit proposals within the three days of the meeting, claimed angry dealers. When the scheme was found out and dealers confronted Autocall, they were told it was a way of conducting market research and viewing potential candidates for recruitment.
Dealers said they would complain to Yes and Avenir, who were unavailable for comment.
Jonathan Skinner, director of Lewes-based Think Telecom, was one of the dealers invited to a meeting but found out about the scheme before assigning an account manager to write a proposal.
He said: "Autocall has stirred up a hornet’s nest of hatred in the dealer community.
"I would have imagined it had good business principles but this has totally damaged their reputation. Some dealers actually spent a few hours writing a proposal. It’s not very ethical."
Managing director of Bluetone Mobile Phones Andrew Marriott said one of his staff had spent four hours writing a quote. He said he intended to invoice Autocall for this staffer’s time and petrol expense.
"They now have privileged information of ours, such as our key selling benefits, that only our clients would receive. We’re all local businesses and we shouldn’t try to damage each other like this."
Autocall sales director Geoff Allen responded that he had been tasked with growing the company and the exercise had been "interesting and useful".
Said Allen: "I can understand that some companies were miffed at what they thought was a waste of their time. I can only apologise to those companies and we will not do this kind of exercise again."
Allen added that the exercise was not much different from a retailer such as Tesco or Sainsburys conducting a mystery shopping exercise.
"There are some very good companies out there and we are very impressed. Hats off to the way they present themselves. Hopefully we can move forward from this."