Ofcom publishes Annual Plan for 2020/21Gulistan Ladha
Following a consultation earlier in the year, Ofcom has published a statement on its Annual Plan for the period April 2020 – March 2021 which has been adapted to take account of the impact of coronavirus on the sector.
In March Ofcom announced its approach to coronavirus – that it was suspending existing consultation deadlines and information requests, and putting on hold new consultations, decisions and information requests. Timings on many areas of work have therefore changed and remain fluid. An update will follow in September, with regular quarterly updates on progress against the plan. Ofcom will continue to work with Government and telecoms providers to keep the nation connected and ensure resilience across landline, broadband and mobile and the 999 and 111 services.
The strategic themes have not changed from the original consultation, but special consideration will be given to vulnerable customers during coronavirus, for example around how to keep them connected, issues relating to termination of service and unexpectedly high bills. Ofcom will also make wider efforts to combat disinformation and will expedite enforcement cases involving potentially harmful broadcast content relating to the coronavirus (such as the myths linking 5G to coronavirus).
Ofcom has made some changes to the deadlines, which are subject to regular review (note: references to quarters relate to financial year not calendar year).
Key changes include:
- A coronavirus response to protect vulnerable customers – Ofcom will proactively monitor and intervene where necessary to protect consumers during the crisis, with particular focus on protecting vulnerable people.
- Plans for implementing the end-user rights section of the EECC within the context of broader Fairness for Customers work programme continues with a statement in Q2. A number of proposed changes to the regulatory rules, including new rules on switching and porting/handset locking/accessibility for disabled customers/contract information have been published already. Switching process consultation will be in Q2 followed by a statement in in Q3/Q4. USO review will begin in Q4.
- Ofcom will undertake the next round of market reviews with consultation on formal proposals taking place in Q2. Changes to regulation will come into effect from Q1. The WFTMR response deadline has already been extended from 1 April to 22 May 2020.
- Ofcom decided to postpone carrying out the final two 700 MHz clearance events originally scheduled for April and is working with programme stakeholders to determine a revised timetable.
- Enabling additional spectrum for mobile and 5G – statement on RLAN will be in Q2.
- Publication of broadband performance in Q1.
- Spectrum management strategy to be published in Q2 and the statement in Q4.
- Ofcom will publish an in-depth evaluation of the impact of its QoS obligations on Openreach’s service level performance on an annual basis.
- Ofcom will continue to ensure more broadband customers are on fair deals. Publication is expected in Q2.
- Affordability of broadband services publication expected in Q3.
- Consultation on Open Communications initiative will be in Q2.
- A discussion document on personalised pricing, including the use of data and algorithms that support these practices will be published in Q2.
- Ofcom will conclude its review of the accreditation scheme for price comparison websites in Q2 and report on pricing trends in fixed, mobile and pay-TV services in Q4.
- Consultation on testing a new approach to improve UK telephone number management and improving trust in telephone numbers will be in Q2.