Dealers connecting Orange, 3 and O2 through distributors claim customer poaching by the networks is on the rise.
Dealers say rules to prevent customers being approached by direct channels are failing.
Allegations are that an increased number of calls are being made by networks to customers who have been signed by the independent channel. These calls allegedly offer new deals and exclusive prices.
Dealers connecting Orange through distributors such as Mainline say the number of approaches has increased since the network introduced its ongoing revenue share scheme in April.
Mobile News understands that customers are contacted near the end of their contract. Dealers only realise conversations have taken place when they access the customer account to find the network has placed a business service customer agreement bar on it which prevents the dealer from any further customer contact.
One Midlands-based dealer said: “All the networks play dirty tricks. Many have improved but Orange hasn’t. I checked an Orange account coming up for renewal and Orange had put a bar on it, effectively stealing my customer.”
A dealer in the Midlands said: “Orange has been doing this for years. No matter what they say they keep using the same old techniques to poach customers.”
Orange said it only “responded reactively” to customers who contacted Orange directly.
A spokesperson said: “Orange values the business brought to us and retained by all of our partners. Our policy is not to call or attempt to re-sign any customer acquired by our channel partners without their agreement.
“We are working with our key channel partners in order to provide them with more robust data to better support them in their customer management efforts. These changes will provide our partners with a greater ability to earn more revenue and shows our commitment to the independent channel.”
Dealers also accused O2 of changing rules on allowing additional connections to be added to sharer tariffs which exceeded the maximum number permitted.
Until recently, dealers requesting an additional connection for a shared tariff already at its maximum for phone numbers or handsets would be given a discretionary code by the network to approve it.
This facility has been removed for the indirect channel, but is allowed for customers calling O2 to request it.
Dealers said this change puts them at a disadvantage against the network and would lead to losing customers who would question a dealer’s service.
One dealer said: “I am absolutely furious with O2 over this. There is nothing we or the distributor can do. It is causing us a lot of grief. We are supposed to be on the same side.
“Distribution are aware of it, and they are as frustrated as us. They admit they can do little about it. It’s causing real frustration.
“It’s not about losing a few extra connections, it’s about losing a customer. It must stop. It’s double standards and unprofessional.”
Another said: “Perhaps O2 is bending its own rules. It is not allowed to contact customers, but if customers contact O2, even if it’s to complain, they can build a relationship without breaking any rules.”
An O2 spokesperson said: “The rules for our partners and direct channels are the same. We always strive to ensure rules are fair and that the same approach is adopted for all parties involved.”
3 has also come under fire from dealers, who claim the network is contacting consumer customers 60 days before their contract expires, when dealers can only do so 30 days prior.
It has also been claimed that dealer customers who contact 3 customer services are being convinced to switch to direct, with one example including a customer calling 3 from a store, and then being asked to leave and call back to be given an exclusive deal.
A Scotland dealer said: “It happens all the time. We work hard to get them, and then they get taken away. I have no idea how many we have lost.
“They will phone the customer and ask if they can send them a new handset, and of course the customer says yes. It’s one rule for them and another for us.
“They are not supposed to do this, but they do. It happens with other networks occasionally, but I very infrequently do upgrades with 3 now because before I can upgrade them they have already gone. This has dramatically reduced my customer base.”