The Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead has helped thousands of UK citizens by taking action against a call centre which was taking money for services it could not provide and changing consumer’s landline providers without the appropriate consents.
The Royal Borough’s trading standards team secured a voluntary undertaking against Kunal Gupta, the director of two telecommunications companies; Guaranteed Telecom Ltd and Met Technologies Ltd trading as Zoom, Millenium Talk and Met Plus after receiving over 300 complaints about monthly direct debit payments for unknown services. Consumers alleged that following an initial cold-call in relation to selling call blocking services a direct debit was set up but no services were provided. Call blocking services can only be activated by the actual telephone provider of the line, not a by a third party.
The Royal Borough’s investigation found that through the two companies nearly 13,000 UK residents had been impacted by the activities of Mr Gupta and his companies.
During the investigation the Trading Standards team spoke with more than 150 consumers all of which were over the age of 65. Further allegations were made that the companies had transferred over consumer’s landlines without their consent or knowledge or that the consumer had been mis-led about the price and services the companies were providing. Taking over a landline without getting the line owner’s consent is known as “slamming”.
Thousands of consumers affected by these activities have now been helped as a result of the Royal Borough’s investigation and unauthorised direct debits have been cancelled at the source.
Greg Nelson, trading standards and licensing manager at the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead said: “Ensuring that both our residents and other UK consumers are protected from activities like this is one of our top priorities.
“The shocking targeting of some of our most vulnerable residents was of grave concern to us during this complex investigation and we are extremely pleased that we have been able to secure refunds for those affected by these activities.”
To help prevent others from falling victim to similar scams the Royal Borough’s Trading Standards team have shared their top tips for keeping safe:
- Don’t buy over the phone (or the doorstep or email): Never feel pressured to buy a service you haven’t wanted over the telephone, by email or on the doorstep. If you do become interested in service following a cold call always do your own research before committing.
- Check direct debits monthly: by checking your direct debits monthly you can ensure you are only paying out for services that you actually want and use. If you find a unknown direct debit you should first contact the company taking the money. If they do not stop the direct debit your bank can help prevent further money being taken.
- Consider putting in a call blocking service: This can only be done by your landline provider and is now normally free of charge. You can also buy a trueCall blocker which provides additional security.
Cllr David Cannon, lead member for public protection and parking said: “I am very pleased that our trading standards team have been able to protect both our residents and those from further afield from this trader. I hope that consumers near and wide will find their top tips to prevent falling victim to these scams helpful.”
In addition to the action taken by the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead, Kunal Gupta, the director of two telecommunications companies; Guaranteed Telecom Ltd and Met Technologies Ltd trading as Zoom, Millenium Talk and Met Plus is also subject to a further investigation by OFCOM, the telecoms regulator.
The Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead’s trading standards team are continuing to monitor these companies to ensure that the terms of the undertaking document are being complied with. Consumers who have been directly affected by these companies are advised to report their experiences to OFCOM by calling 0300 123 3333 or visiting: OFCOM website.