Ofcom is proposing a number of changes to the rules which apply to all UK communications providers – known as the ‘General Conditions of Entitlement’.
Consultation follows an in-depth review of these regulatory conditions. Ofcom assessed their effectiveness in protecting consumers from harm, including people with additional or specific needs, and how well the rules reflect changing consumer habits and developments in technology.
Ofcom has identified a number of areas where we consider new or strengthened regulation is needed to protect consumers.
Some of the key improvements they are proposing concern complaints handling, nuisance calls, billing and debt collection. Other important changes seek to address the particular needs of vulnerable and disabled customers.
Ofcom are proposing to:
- introduce a new requirement for all communications providers to have clear, effective policies and procedures for identifying vulnerable customers – such as people with learning or communication difficulties or those suffering physical or mental illness or bereavement – to ensure they are treated fairly and appropriately in their dealings with communications providers;
- require all communications providers to offer disabled users access to priority fault repair, third party bill management and accessible bills. These measures currently only apply to landline and mobile services;
- strengthen the complaints handling rules to ensure that complaints are dealt with promptly and effectively, that consumers are kept informed about the progress of their complaint, and have faster access to dispute resolution services in cases where they reach deadlock with their provider;
- require providers to identify and block calls with an invalid or non-diallable number – a feature of many nuisance calls – so they don’t get through to consumers. We are also proposing to ban providers from charging for caller display facilities;
- require broadband and mobile providers to have fair and transparent debt-collection and disconnection practices in place. This requirement already applies to landline providers; and
- extend current rules on billing accuracy, which currently apply to voice call services, to include broadband and mobile data services.
More generally, they intend to clarify and simplify many of the rules, making them easier to understand and comply with. Ofcom also propose to deregulate by lifting rules that are no longer required.
They are inviting responses to the consultation by 14 March 2017, and expect to publish a revised set of rules later in the year.
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