Ofcom consultation: Fair treatment and easier switching for broadband and mobile customers

Ofcom consultation: Fair treatment and easier switching for broadband and mobile customers

Proposals to implement the new European Electronic Communications Code 

Ofcom has published a consultation on a range of measures protect broadband, mobile, pay TV and landline phone customers and help ensure they get a fair deal. The proposals respond to changes to the European regulatory framework. The Government consulted earlier this year on how to reflect these changes in UK law. Responses are due by 3 March 2020. Ofcom plans to publish a statement in Q1 2020/21.

Transposition deadline
EU member states have until 21 December 2020 to transpose the changes into national law.

Making broadband switching easier and more reliable
Ofcom plans to require 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 Virgin Media and alternative networks (AltNets) such as Cityfibre, Hyperoptic and Gigaclear. To switch between physically separate networks, customers have to manually order the new service and then contact their old ISP to cancel the old one. 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 1 working day and ISPs will be expected to compensate customers if things go wrong. Ofcom is also planning to ban notice period charges beyond the switch date for residential customers switching their fixed services to prevent customers paying for the old and new services at the same time.

Banning mobile providers from selling locked devices
Some providers sell locked devices so they cannot be used on another network. Ofcom sees this as a barrier to switching and is proposing to ban the sale of locked mobile devices. This complements the mobile Auto-switch process implemented in June 2019.

Better contract information and stronger rights to exit
Customers should be given the information they need in writing before they sign a contract, which should include a summary of key contract terms. Ofcom is also proposing that customers are given the right to exit their contract if there are any changes that customers had not been previously informed of. The right to exit would also apply to other services or equipment bought as part of a bundle with a communications service.

Ensuring customers with disabilities have equivalent access to and choice of communications services
Ofcom is proposing that all phone and broadband providers enable British Sign Language (BSL) users to contact the Emergency Services using video relay services. In addition, all written communications to all customers who need alternative formats because of their disabilities should be provided in an accessible format on request. This could be any information about their service, such as price rises or missed payments.

Alongside this, Ofcom has published a consultation on proposed changes to its accreditation scheme for price comparison websites, including changes to implement new European rules regarding independent comparison tools. Services falling within scope include mobile, landline, international roaming, broadband, Voice over IP and bundled services. The consultation runs until 28 February 2019.