Switching

Ofcom Statement on Implementation of the European Electronic Communications Code

In its December 2019 consultation, Ofcom proposed a package of measures to implement new customer protections in the EECC. In a statement by the regulator published today, the following decisions have been made:

  • Selling locked handsets will be banned – from December 2021.
  • Customers needing accessible formats due to their disabilities can request communications to be sent in a format that meets their needs (e.g. braille). This includes communications about their service such as price changes or payment reminders – from December 2021.
  • Customers will be given important information in writing before they sign a contract, including a summary of key contract terms (broadband providers must inform customers of the minimum internet speeds they can expect) – from June 2022.
  • Customers can exit their contract if providers make changes they were not previously informed of, and are not to their benefit during the minimum term. This applies to other services or equipment if bought as part of a bundle – from June 2022.
  • Enabling broadband switching across physically separate fixed networks, and banning notice period charges beyond the date of the switch for fixed residential customers – from December 2022.

Within the statement, Ofcom is consulting on proposed changes to the General Conditions, the Metering and Billing Direction and the Numbering Plan until 30 November.

The full document is available here:

https://www.ofcom.org.uk/consultations-and-statements/category-1/proposals-to-implement-new-eecc

European Electronic Communications Code

Government has set out how it will bring the EECC into UK law. The code largely consists of changes to the existing legal framework but government will also bring in some new pro-investment measures from the code that are in the UK’s national interest and support its plans for nationwide gigabit broadband. Other measures give people and businesses greater consumer protection and Ofcom will be granted a series of new powers.  (more…)

Ofcom allows additional time for providers to implement EECC rules

Ofcom has announced that it will allow communications providers at least 12 months to implement changes required when the EECC becomes law in the UK. This may be extended for rules that will have a major impact on systems, such as switching. Ofcom is expected to publish a statement in September once Government confirms its approach to introducing EECC into UK law.

This update follows Ofcom’s consultation in December which closed in March. Ofcom recognises that coronavirus has brought significant challenges to communications providers over recent months and that their focus has been on keeping the nation connected, supporting the vulnerable, the NHS and schools.

The specific implementation deadline for each of the new rules will be published in September.

Ofcom publishes its latest step in its Fairness for Customers programme of work

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. (more…)

CMA investigation into the loyalty penalty

A report published today by the CMA is a progress report setting out the work and progress that has been made over the last 12 months.

In September 2018, CMA received a super-complaint from Citizens Advice. There followed an investigation into the loyalty penalty in 5 markets: mobile phone contracts, broadband, household insurance, cash savings and mortgages. The CMA uncovered continual year on year price rises, costly exit fees from contracts, time-consuming and difficult processes to cancel contracts or switch to new providers, and auto-renewal policies that switched unsuspecting customers onto more expensive contracts, often without sufficient warning. In its response to the super-complaint, the CMA made a number of recommendations to Ofcom, the FCA and other regulators to help them better protect consumers. It also launched its own investigations into auto-renewal practices in two sectors. (more…)

Cross sector comparisons

The UK Regulators Network (UKRN), regulators in telecoms, water, energy and banking have partnered to compare how customers rate the biggest companies who provide services people rely on every day. The level of customer satisfaction in telecoms varies between 79% to 96%. The scorecards also capture some metrics on perceptions of value for money. Between 82% and 97% of customers in telecoms are satisfied with the value for money they receive from their supplier. Complaints across mobile, landline and broadband complaints are below 1%. (more…)

Ofcom publishes its 2019/2020 Work Plan

Ofcom has published its work plan for 2019/2020 laying out its priorities and projects for the coming financial year following consultation with the public and industry. The four main focus areas for Ofcom are:

* Better broadband – this will include the implementation of the broadband Universal Service Obligation and supporting investment in fibre though duct and pole access – and better mobile – through auctioning more spectrum to boost rural reception and preparing for 5G.

* Fairness for customers – to ensure the fairer treatment of customers with fairer and clearer pricing and more transparency around deals availability. Ofcom will also be increasing the budget for its Communications Consumer panel.

* Supporting UK broadcasting – Ofcom will look to support regional TV productions and review the BBC’s news and current affairs programming and commercial activities as well as ensure that public service channels remain easily locatable in the face of technology developments.

* Online harms – reflecting the growing concerns around protecting people online and to ensure that audiences understand better the online world, Ofcom will carry out more work around media literacy and research into specific harms to include awareness raising.

Ofcom has updated its plan following the Government’s publication of its draft Statement of Strategic Priorities covering telecoms, spectrum and the postal service to reflect the priorities that were set by DCMS.

Whilst there are few surprises in the specific projects proposed for the year, with many ongoing and rolling over from last year, the first quarter should see Statements on the Broadband USO, the completion of the assessment for both the Business Connectivity Market Review and the Physical Infrastructure market review with the expected introduction of an unrestricted duct and pole access remedy.

Ofcom also references the work it is undertaking around Brexit and European legislation and how international cooperation with other bodies is expected to continue.

Government sets out Strategic Communications Priorities

The Government is looking for opinions on its draft Statement of Strategic Priorities (SSP) for telecommunications, radio spectrum and post – the first if its kind following its new power granted by the Digital Economy Act 2017. Once the SSP is formally designated, telecoms will be brought more into line with the other utility sectors, and Ofcom obliged to have regard to the Statement. (more…)

Network deployment speeds ahead whilst adoption lags

Ofcom yesterday published their annual Connected Nations Report which tracks the progress on deployment and take-up of digital infrastructure and the services provided over them.

The headline stats are that superfast (30Mbit/s) fixed connectivity is up 3 points to 94% of homes and businesses from last year, with 4G coverage from at least one operator up to 91% of the UK’s landmass. This is steady rather than spectacular progress, as you would expect at this stage of the network deployments. Full Fibre connections, a key focus for Government policy following the FTIR, now stands at 6% of premises.

Around 2% of UK premises still cannot currently access broadband services offering a 10 Mbit/s download – the threshold below which the Universal Service Obligation (USO) would kick in. This has halved in the last year and Ofcom will be hoping to see continued progress in 2019 in order to reduce the target area for the broadband USO which will come into effect next year. (more…)

Comparison website finds that 77% of UK businesses are satisfied with broadband but downtime remains a problem

The Broadband Genie annual business broadband report published today found that 1.5 million businesses in the UK (23% of all businesses) encounter broadband issues at least once a week, costing them on average £904 for every hour broadband is down. The broadband comparison website surveyed 500 firms from across the UK and also found that nearly half of businesses have no dedicated staff responsible for resolving issues with a broadband connection despite expenses costing between £1000 and £5000 per hour for 16% of businesses.

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Bundles – Consumers are struggling to find the one that fits their needs

According to a recent survey by consultancy firm Ernst & Young, the fast evolution of the bundle market combined with significant changes in the broadband infrastructure has translated into a vast array of service offerings. This is a sign that innovation and competition in the market are alive and well, however the complexity of the bundles leave in some cases consumers confused. The report suggests that to turn dissatisfied (and willing to switch) customers into loyal customers, service providers should be doing more to tailor their bundle packages to meet the needs of the diverse range of consumers (from “digital devotees??? and “loyal bundlers??? to “serious about sports??? and “functional users???).

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