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New Consumer Protection Rules for UK Phone and Broadband ISPs

Tuesday, September 25th, 2018 (10:45 am) - Score 1,742
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Ofcom has today reminded people that they’re enforcing a number of new consumer protection rules from 1st October 2018 (arguably they’re more like tweaks to existing regulations), which aim to protect consumers against nuisance calls, improve the cancellation / complaint process and bring about free Caller ID services etc.

All phone, broadband and mobile (communication) providers in the United Kingdom are required to follow Ofcom’s General Conditions of Entitlement, which essentially establish a core set of standards for how the industry should work and interact with customers.

Last year the regulator moved to simplify and improve these, with the resulting changes placing tougher requirements on all UK communications providers. This covers a range of areas including nuisance calls, complaints handling and the protection of vulnerable customers.

Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s Consumer Group Director, said:

“It’s important that our rules keep pace with developments in the communications market, and continue to give consumers the protection they need.

Our strengthened rules will help to protect people against nuisance calls and support our work to identify and punish those companies responsible.

We’ve also introduced special protections to ensure that vulnerable people are fairly treated and that customer complaints are dealt with promptly and effectively.”

Further details can be found here or you can read the simplified summary of changes below.

Summary of the Key Changes

Help to better protect people against nuisance calls

* Phone companies will be banned from charging customers for caller display (Caller ID), a service which helps people to screen unwanted calls;

* Telephone numbers displayed to people receiving calls must be valid and allow a person to call the number back;

* Phone companies must take steps to identify and block calls which carry invalid numbers – a feature of many nuisance calls – so they don’t get through to consumers in the first place; and

* Ofcom will be able to take back blocks of numbers from communications providers if they are found to have been systematically used to cause harm or anxiety to people, such as to make nuisance calls or perpetrate scams or fraud.

Require telecoms companies to treat vulnerable customers fairly

* Communications providers must introduce policies 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. For example, broadband providers must now offer disabled users access to priority fault repair, third party bill management and accessible bills.

Help ensure that complaints and customer requests are handled appropriately

* All communications providers must ensure that customer concerns are dealt with promptly and effectively;

* Customers must be kept informed about the progress of their complaint and be allowed faster access to dispute resolution services in cases where the matter cannot be resolved by their provider; and

* Ofcom is issuing new guidance to providers on handling customers’ requests to cancel their contract. This should include allowing customers to cancel by phone, email or webchat, and ensuring incentive schemes for customer service agents do not encourage poor behaviour.

As you’d expect not all of the changes have been universally welcomed by ISPs and the free Caller ID feature is certainly one of the most contentious, not least due to the technical challenge of what Ofcom requires. The regulator may also expect providers to offer Caller ID (Caller Display) for free but those providers are often still charged for that service at wholesale (Openreach), which usually means they’ll need to recover any lost revenue from somewhere else (e.g. price rises or package changes).

Leave a Comment
4 Responses
  1. Avatar Joe

    “Telephone numbers displayed to people receiving calls must be valid and allow a person to call the number back;

    * Phone companies must take steps to identify and block calls which carry invalid numbers – a feature of many nuisance calls – so they don’t get through to consumers in the first place; and”

    Hmm.. I’m not sure this is technically possible (on foreign calls at least).

  2. Avatar M

    Right now, I am paying Virgin Media a few quid for caller display on their landline service. I recently got a letter saying my bill is going up by the same few quid in November. Like, no it’s not. So I am watching you VM. I will be straight into complaints if they do not remove the charge on the caller display and I see my bill go up.

    • Avatar spurple

      You could resolve the potential problem right now by calling them and sorting it out. Complaints processes are meant for resolving disputes, not for entrapment.

      I got a letter advising that my bill is going up by £3 in November too, and I take Broadband only, so sorry to break it to you, they’re not reintroducing the caller-ID fee by another means.

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