BT has called for the telecoms industry to put a stop to misselling practices aimed at Britain's small and mediumsized businesses.
More than three quarters (78 per cent) of SMEs say they have been on the receiving end of misselling of business services, with almost two thirds (59 per cent) of these believing they have been missold telephone services.
Of the 1,000 SMEs questioned, 82 per cent think that misselling is a growing problem for their business, 63 per cent believe that the problem of misselling has increased in the last couple of years and more than four fifths (81 per cent) find the practice irritating.
There is no legal definition of misselling but in general terms, it is understood by BT and others to refer to sales and marketing practices that are misleading or deceitful. The most extreme form of misselling is "slamming" where a telephone company transfers your calls and/or phone line without the account holder's consent.
The research, carried out for BT, also showed that most small and medium-sized businesses lack the necessary knowledge to safeguard themselves against approaches from unscrupulous salespeople.
At present, less than a third of SMEs have formal procedures in place to protect themselves against misselling and 88 per cent said they would welcome clear guidelines setting out their rights in the situation.
The findings are part of a BT campaign to raise awareness of the issue of misselling among SMEs.
BT has developed a dedicated section for business on bt.com, which provides information about misselling and offers advice to SMEs on how to protect themselves or how to take action if they've been a victim of misselling.
According to the research, three quarters of SMEs agreed that misselling was a drain on company time (72 per cent) and half said it cost their business money (48 per cent).
On average, those that had been missold estimated it had cost them £377 in lost business and wasted 11.2 working hours.
One in ten businesses said dealing with misselling had taken up as much as a week of company time.