Ofcom publishes its latest step in its Fairness for Customers programme of workSophie James
In June 2019, the UK’s major broadband, mobile and pay-TV companies signed Ofcom’s new Fairness for Customers commitments which puts fairness at the heart of their businesses. The aim of Ofcom’s Fairness for Customers programme is to help ensure people are always treated fairly by their provider – whether they are signing up to a new deal, trying to fix a problem or switching to a new company.
- Customers get a fair deal, which is right for their needs. Providers offer customers packages that fit their needs and have a fair approach to pricing. Prices are clear and easy to understand;
- Customers get the support they need when their circumstances make them vulnerable. Providers understand and identify the characteristics, circumstances and needs of vulnerable customers – such as vulnerability due to a disability, age, mental illness or having recently been bereaved – and act to give them fair treatment and equal access to services too;
- Customers are supported to make well-informed decisions with clear information about their options before, during, and at the end of their contract. Providers design and send communications in a way that reflects an understanding of how customers generally react to information so that they can understand and engage with the market;
- Customers’ services work as promised, reliably over time. If things go wrong providers give a prompt response to fix problems and take appropriate action to help their customers, which may include providing compensation where relevant. If providers can’t fix problems with core services they have promised to deliver within a reasonable period, customers can walk away from their contract with no penalty;
- Customers can sign up to, change and leave their services quickly and smoothly. Providers ensure that customers who are leaving do not face additional barriers or hassle compared to those who are signing up to new services;
- Customers can be confident that fair treatment is a central part of their provider’s culture. Companies can demonstrate that they have the right procedures in place to ensure customers are treated well. They keep these effective and up-to-date.
- The commitments are a vital part of Ofcom’s work to help ensure companies treat their customers fairly. Many are already underpinned by existing consumer law and Ofcom’s rules. We will be monitoring companies’ practices closely and will step in where we see firms falling short.
In January, Ofcom published its progress reviewing whether companies are delivering what they have promised. Today, Ofcom published a framework outlining how it will judge whether customers are being treated fairly by telecoms and pay-TV companies. When assessing concerns about fairness, Ofcom will consider the following questions:
- How do providers treat customers throughout the customer journey? Ofcom will look at whether customers are given clear information to help them make the right decisions; whether it is straightforward for them to complain; and whether problems are fixed promptly.
- Who is being harmed, if anyone? Ofcom will pay particular attention to whether any vulnerable customers have been affected.
- What is the extent of the harm, if any? Ofcom will consider whether customers have faced significant harm; whether many customers are affected; and whether a problem has persisted for a long time.
- How important is the service? Ofcom will consider whether the service in question is important or essential to customers.
- Does the service depend on risky new investment? Ofcom will look at whether the service is an existing service that has little need for new investment.
Ofcom will use the framework to help assess concerns that are brought to its attention through complaints or through its own market monitoring. Ofcom will also use it to help decide whether intervention is required. Ofcom will continue to keep an eye on customers’ experiences, and make sure companies stick to what they have promised.