Self-employed traders furious as Gosport mobile phone firm hits them in the pocket
CUSTOMERS have told of their frustration at losing promised discounts on phone contracts amid claims they mis-sold contracts after the middle-man firm they dealt with shut up shop.
Future Communications Specialists, known as Future Comms and operating from Royal Clarence Marina in Gosport, offered self-employed traders a switch to O2 contracts, with the Gosport-based company paying cancellation fees and offering discounts on new deals.
But customers say they have been left with cancellation fees unpaid and discounts have disappeared from their bills.
One entrepreneur has won a more than £3,000 county court judgment Future Communications Specialists, registered in The Anchorage in Gosport, and has called in the bailiffs to claw his cash back.
Customers have been left to contact either Chess or Plan.com – distribution and wholesale partners with O2 – who had subcontracted Future Comms.
Flooring contractor Matt Cole, 28, from Portsmouth, entered an O2 business contract via Future Comms 17 months ago, paying £57.92 a month – which has now been transferred to Chess.
He said he is owed around £200 after the discounts dried up and said: ‘It took them about four months to pay me out of my old contract.
‘They told me the contract would be £23 per month, but my first bill was for £50 – Future Comms said they would refund the difference, which they stopped doing.
‘I don’t know if I’ll ever see that money now.’
Mr Cole added: ‘I'm now stuck in a contract I don't want to be in, all because I was mis-sold something over a year ago.’
Christ Boast, 48, from West Yorkshire, owns a company that manufactures plus-size horseriding clothing.
He won a county court judgement against The Future Telecom Group Limited and Future Communications Specialists Limited for the £3,913.88 he is owed from a contract dating back to May 2018. He has called in bailiffs to act on his court judgment.
Mr Boast said: ‘The only cash I’ve ever seen is £90 from the monthly discount, paid last November.
‘I was calling Future Comms every day and was always promised the money – but it never turned up.’
Annette Atherton, a 41-year-old dog walker from County Durham, said she was owed £300 for a buyout on her old contract.
Since being transferred to Chess, she has been repaid £110 – but says she would only get the rest if she signed up with the new firm.
She said: ‘It’s a disgrace. They ripped people off and it’s been a constant battle to get my money back – I had no idea if I would ever see it.
‘I don’t want to do that [sign up with Chess] so we’re at a stalemate at the moment.’
In an interview with The News before the closure, directors Joe Stickler and Lewis Tribble admitted they didn’t have the money to repay every customer immediately but promised to pay up by 2020.
At the time Mr Stickler said ‘the only people responsible for this are me and Lewis, and we have no option but to make this work’.
He added: ‘We don’t have a blank chequebook – we ran before we learned to walk.’
There are active proposals to strike off Future Communications Holdings and The Future Telecom Group, registered in The Anchorage, Gosport, but with creditors still waiting for their money, this has been suspended.
Mr Tribble said: ‘I gave everything I could to make this successful, but we went up against the corporate machine and lost.’
He added: ‘When we reach a deal with a customer they sign a contract and purchase order and we send a call recording to the network.
‘If the customer doesn't understand what the contract was then they haven't read that properly. Nobody was mis-sold anything.’
A Plan.com spokesman said: 'We sympathise with the small number of business customers who were introduced to us by Future Communications Specialists Limited and have been affected by the company’s substandard customer care and eventual closure.
‘We’re pleased to have already helped more than 90 per cent of these customers secure a new arrangement that works for them and their business.
‘We’re working hard to do likewise for the few customers remaining.
‘We are also working openly with relevant industry bodies, including the Ombudsman and Ofcom, to ensure that we continue to meet all of our obligations in respect of this matter.’
Chess said: ‘We are working to address and resolve all customer issues as a matter of urgency.’
Both Mr Stickler and Mr Tribble have been contacted for further comment.
‘I think as a business and as individuals... we conducted ourselves correctly every day,’ Mr Tribble told the BBC.
An O2 spokeswoman said: ‘We are aware of issues that Chess and plan.com have experienced with Future Communications Specialists Ltd, and we are working closely with both partners to ensure they address and resolve the issues these customers are facing as a matter of urgency.’