HomeInsightsOfcom proposes changes to General Conditions of Entitlement to protect consumers and aid enforcement

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Ofcom is proposing a number of changes to the rules that apply to all UK communications providers, known as the “General Conditions of Entitlement”.

The 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 it considers new or strengthened regulation is needed to protect consumers.

Some of the key improvements Ofcom is 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 is 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 do not get through to consumers. Ofcom is 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, Ofcom intends to clarify and simplify many of its rules, making them easier to understand and comply with. It also proposes to deregulate by lifting rules that are no longer required.

Ofcom is inviting responses to the consultation by 14 March 2017 and expects to publish a revised set of rules later in the year. To access the consultation, click here.