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New Ofcom boss gets tough with UK CSPs

sharon white ofcom

Sharon White, who took over as boss of UK telecoms regulator Ofcom in March of this year, has used her first speech in the role to warn CSPs they need to improve their customer service.

On top of reiterating Ofcom’s consumer protection remit, White (pictured) also unveiled an enforcement programme designed to help consumers leave their existing communications providers more easily. The six-month programme could result in the naming and shaming of any CSPs that make it too difficult for people to leave.

“When Ofcom was established, access to a reliable internet connection or mobile phone was a ‘nice to have’,” opened White. “Now it is essential to the functioning of the economy, to the way people work and live their lives. It has become a necessity in the same way as gas or electricity or running water…Where markets don’t work well enough – or where competition alone isn’t enough to secure good outcomes for consumers – then we have powers to intervene.”

One such intervention, is a new code of conduct on broadband speeds that explicitly gives consumers the right to walk away from contracts when speeds fall below ‘acceptable levels’. It is thought this refers to claimed minimum speeds, which the provider is presumably obliged to state in the contract, although specifics from Ofcom are hard to come by.

Additionally Ofcom is working on plans to make it easier to change broadband or mobile provider, which White noted in her speech is increasingly becoming one and the same thing.

Over the next year there are two big milestones that could affect the functioning of the market for consumers,” said White. “First, big mergers in our sector. These are not in Ofcom’s jurisdiction and, as we are supporting the CMA with technical advice, it would not be right to set out our position on individual cases. But my general observation is that competition has been good for investment and for consumers.

“Second, our Digital Communications Review. This is our first big review in ten years and will be an opportunity to take a broad look at the position of the citizen and consumer and what more needs to be done to serve their interests more strongly as we consider reforms to our regulatory approach.”

While White chose to steer a fairly standard course with her first speech – affirming her remit of ensuring the market operates in the interest of consumers as much as possible – there was an underlying warning that she’s not afraid to be assertive. Deceptive marketing and obstructive customer service are two of the biggest areas of complaint from UK consumers and White seems to be determined to tackle them.

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One comment

  1. david wright 12/06/2015 @ 5:16 pm

    In a time of ‘Massive’ Industry & Economic ‘Transformation’ is it better to have a ‘Credible’ Industry Veteran or a bright young star?

    Is a Regulators Role to ‘Lead’ or to ‘Mediate & supervise’?

    On the path to 5G, ‘Bravery’ will be ‘essential’…….or the UK will be, again, be left behind the other giants in the world.

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