My 87-year-old mother was hit by phone-slamming – followed by big bills

James Elliot of Expert Telecom (Image: Facebook)

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One of the most notorious phone firms of recent years is True Telecom, which raked in new customers with the horrible practice of “slamming”.

It would cold-call victims and get them to switch contracts, locking them into expensive deals which came with costly exit fees.

In 2017 it was fined £300,000 by Ofcom over “the high number of repeat slamming incidents” and fined £85,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office for phoning people registered with the Telephone Preference Service or TPS, which is meant to stop nuisance calls.

Which brings me to Expert Telecom, and a fresh allegation of phone slamming and possible links to True Telecom.

I’ve been contacted by the son of an 87-year-old widow with dementia who says Expert Telecom took
over his mother’s landline after cold-calling her, even though her number is registered with the TPS.

Philip – I’m withholding the surname to protect his mother – wrote to the company to say: “There is no conceivable scenario in which your cold-calling salesperson would have been able to obtain informed consent for your actions from this vulnerable individual.

“I have been made aware by my mother’s carer that, contrary to my explicit instructions, you have repeatedly attempted to harass and threaten my elderly and vulnerable mother by telephone.”

He was furious that Expert Telecom offered a monthly price package of £10.99 but the bill came to more than £46, and took the whole year’s line rental of £150 in a single debit.

His complaint was initially dealt with by Dave Catchpole, operations manager at Expert Telecom, who emailed: “Firstly, I would like to apologise if the information explained in your email is true. We have particular processes in place to stop this from happening.”

Although the company agreed to return the contract to BT, Philip says that it tried to charge his mother a £199 termination fee.

He also questioned Trustpilot reviews of Expert Telecom that include multiple ones from the same reviewer: “Six positive reviews from a single customer in as many weeks? Who does that?”

I took the matter up with the director of Expert Telecom, 28-year-old James Elliott of Strood, Kent.

He told me that another relative of Philip’s mother had agreed to the transfer of the phone contract, and that after Philip complained it was being returned to BT at no charge.

“Expert Telecom has stringent processes in place to ensure we protect vulnerable customers and customer satisfaction continues to be a top priority,” Mr Elliott said.

Philip responded that no other relative has any recollection of dealing with Expert Telecom and, in any case, would not have had the authority to change his mother’s contract because he has power of attorney.

I suggested to Expert Telecom that a simple way to get to the bottom of the matter would be to let me or Philip hear the recording of its sales call, but Mr Elliott replied: “Expert Telecom will be providing no further comment”.

Which is a shame, because I had also asked him if he is the same James Elliott whose Facebook page says that he’s a former line manager at the dreadful True Telecom.

The James Elliott on Facebook also happens to have a friend called Dave Catchpole, the same name as the Expert Telecom operations manager, and another called Mark Baines, a director of True Telecom, and they all have links to the north-west corner of Kent. Which might of course just be coincidence.

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