Orange in direct sales trial as OFT probe starts

Orange, the mobile phone company, has begun trials to sell its handsets directly to customers. The move comes just days after the Office of Fair Trading announced an official investigation into alleged price-fixing through dealers.

The Hutchison Telecom division is the subject of an OFT probe following complaints from a number of Orange dealers that it is fixing prices for its handsets. Dealers claim to be having difficulties getting phone supplies if they do not agree to prices set by Orange.

As yet, the OFT has no firm evidence to support the allegations. It is appealing to dealers for more information.

The allegations come as Orange begins a 500,000, four-week trial to determine if customers will buy its products over the phone.

Orange, which says the direct sales operation will not replace its dealer channel, begins trials this week in TV ads through WWAV Rapp Collins.

The commercials supply viewers with a telephone number that connects directly to Orange’s Hertford headquarters.

The phones – priced at 99.99 each – will be delivered to them within 48 hours.

“The two are not connected,” says a Hutchison spokesman, commenting on Orange’s move into direct sales and the OFT investigation.

He confirms that a letter has been received from the OFT

and that Hutchison will reply

to it by today’s deadline (Wednesday).

The new direct response ads will not affect the Orange branding campaign, designed by WCRS. Two new ads through WCRS will break at the end of August.

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