Ofcom probes Unicom after complaints

NORTH West telecoms provider Unicom is under investigation from the communications watchdog after it received complaints about the firm from customers.

The Manchester company, which has 100,000 small business customers, could be hit with a fine of up to 10% of its annual turnover, capped at £2m, if it is found guilty by Ofcom.

A spokeswoman for the regulator said it had launched an “own initiative investigation” into Universal Utilities, which trades as Unicom, after identifying trends in complaints data which warranted further examination.

The investigation centres on Unicom’s sales and marketing activities in relation to fixed line products and also into whether there was a breach in the rules regarding a requirement to offer contracts with minimum terms.

A statement from the regulator said: “Ofcom has opened this investigation following complaints from consumers as well as an assessment of evidence submitted by Unicom in the course of an own-initiative enquiry.

“General Condition 24 places various obligations on fixed-line communications providers  regarding the ways in which they engage in sales and marketing activity. General Condition 9 places various requirements on CPs in respect of the provision of information, the length of contracts and the conditions for termination.

“Ofcom’s investigation will examine whether there are reasonable grounds for believing that Unicom has failed to comply with these obligations.”

Backed by private equity investor Vitruvian Partners, Unicom has enjoyed rapid growth over the last few years. Most recent accounts, for the year to April 2013 show a 10% jump in profits last year to £20.2, on reveunes up 8% to to £60m.

As well as providing communication services such as phones and broadband Unicom also acts as a gas and electricity broker.

A spokesman for the company, which has 500 staff nationwide, said: “Unicom is proud of the value we provide to our customers and of our record of customer care and we intend to co-operate fully with Ofcom.

“Unicom provides more than 100,000 small businesses with outstanding value for money on business line rental and calls, broadband, mobile, gas and electricity services, supported by a dedicated team of customer service advisers.”