Consumer transparency and choice
Consumer protection and end-users’ rights
The EECC contains a chapter on end-user rights which sets out a package of measures to protect customers, building on the protections currently contained in the Universal Service Directive. It specifies a range of requirements concerning provision of information in contracts, transparency, comparison tools and publication of information, quality of service, contract duration and termination. In January 2020 Ofcom set out its fairness framework outlining how it will judge whether customers are being treated fairly by telecoms and pay-TV companies, looking at whether customers are given clear information to help them make the right decisions, a good outcome has been reached, whether it is straightforward for them to complain and whether problems are fixed promptly.
Since February 2020 providers have been required to notify customers when their contract is coming to an end and they must also tell them about their best available deals. If customers are already out of contract they must be reminded of that annually and given the provider’s best deals. In relation to this, Ofcom is looking at the potential uses and benefits of Open Communications and how to enable consumers and small businesses to share their information with third parties safely and securely, in order t for them to tailor their offers to specific customer needs. Government’s Smart Data Review in 2019 proposed to introduce Open Communications through legislation to stimulate innovation and promote the development of new services. BSG is working with industry, Ofcom and government to develop the thinking in this area.
The EECC requires a customer’s new broadband provider to lead the switch regardless of whether they are moving across different fixed networks or between providers of ultrafast broadband services on the same fixed network. Currently, switching between providers on Openreach’s network is a Gaining Provider Led (GPL) process, but excludes those not on the Openreach network, such as Virgin Media and AltNets such as Cityfibre, Hyperoptic and Gigaclear. Ofcom’s proposals will place the onus on the customer’s new broadband provider to lead this newly regulated process of switching. Any loss of service that might occur during a switch should not exceed one working day and ISPs will be expected to compensate customers if things go wrong.
The Online Harms White Paper published in April 2019 proposes a new duty of care on companies to improve online safety and the establishment of an independent regulator. The government has already announced that it is minded to appoint Ofcom as the regulator. The Age Appropriate Design Code came into force in September 2020, with a 12-month transition period. Conforming to this statutory code of practice will ensure that as an organisation designing and providing online services likely to be accessed by children in the UK, organisations take into account the best interests of the child.