Ofcom has put together a consultation paper entitled ‘Fair treatment and easier switching for broadband and mobile customers’, which aimed at improving the regulation surrounding communication services in the UK by implementing the new European Electronic Communications Code. It is unclear how Britain’s exit from the European Union will affect the implementation of any such proposals into UK law.
Ofcom’s proposals are set out in short below:
Improving the process of switching broadband
The intention here is to require a customer’s new broadband provider to lead the switch and for that switch to be seamless. There are currently no regulated processes in place and Ofcom want to change that.
Ofcom also claims that loss of broadband service should not exceed 1 day (as part of switch process) and that compensation should be available when things go wrong.
Ofcom are proposing to ban notice period charges beyond the switch date for residential customers switching their fixed networks or providers of full-fibre services.
Banning mobile providers from selling locked devices
Exactly that – Ofcom are proposing to ban mobile providers from selling mobile devices, which are locked to a certain network provider, to residential customers.
Better contract information and stronger rights to exit
Ofcom are proposing that all customers are provided with detailed information in writing before signing a contract, together with a summary of the key contractual terms. Ofcom reports that this will help customers to compare offers and make an informed choice.
Ofcom are also planning to strengthen the current ‘right to exit’ if any unexpected changes to the contract arise. Especially if the consumer was not informed of those changes and/or not the changes are not exclusively to the customer’s benefit.
Ofcom also want to bring in guidance that protects customers when they purchase a bundle of services – there is a concern over such services ‘locking-in’ customers, which makes it more difficult for them to switch providers.
Increasing equality for disabled customers
Ofcom plan to improve the accessibility of communications services needed for those with disabilities.
Ofcom propose that all phone and broadband providers easily enable British sign language users to contact the emergency services using video relay services. In addition, Ofcom have proposed the requirement for alternative accessible formats to be made available for communications (i.e. large print) on request.
The European Electronic Communications Code (EECC) is a new EU directive that updates the current regulatory framework for communication services. The UK is supposedly required to implement this directive by December 2020, however, it is unclear whether the UK will implement this directive as the transition period, following the UK’s formal exit from the European Union, is due to end on 31 December 2020.
At this stage, this is purely a consultation paper and not binding in law. The consultation paper is available on Ofcom’s website and Ofcom has invited responses to the same by 3 March 2020. Ofcom intend to publish a decision in the first quarter of 2020/21.