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Ofcom UK Warns Sky TV Over End-of-Contract Notifications Breach

Friday, May 14th, 2021 (1:25 pm) - Score 19,896
sky broadband uk tv 2020

An initial investigation by the telecoms regulator, Ofcom, has today found “reasonable grounds to believe” that Sky UK (Sky TV, Sky Broadband) may have broken consumer protection rules over their apparent refusal to issue end-of-contract notifications to Pay TV customers.

The regulator’s End-of-Contract Notifications (ECN) system requires all fixed broadband, mobile, home phone and pay TV providers to issue such notifications to existing subscribers at the end of their term (sent by text, email or letter). The move was intended to help tackle the so-called “loyalty penalty” by keeping customers informed about the best deals and encouraging switching.

Specifically, the rules state that these notifications must be sent to customers of all public “electronic communications services” other than machine-to-machine (M2M) transmission services. Ofcom considers that, as a provider of Pay TV services transmitted by a satellite network, Sky provides an electronic communications service and must therefore send end-of-contract notifications to its TV customers, but the company disagrees.

The core of this issue centres on how an ‘electronic communications service’ is defined in section 32 of the 2003 Communications Act, where it says: “a service consisting in, or having as its principal feature, the conveyance by means of an electronic communications network of signals, except insofar as it is a content service.”

Sky’s point of contention is over the bit where it says, “except insofar as it is a content service.” As such Sky appear to contend that content services, such as broadcast services, are exempt from the regulation, although this may be harder to argue in today’s modern age of digital connectivity than it was in the old analogue era. Meanwhile, Ofcom seems to be arguing that it is the transmission of content that constitutes an ECS.

Ofcom Statement

“We have provisionally found that as a provider of pay TV services transmitted by means of satellite distribution network, Sky provides an electronic communications service. As such, we provisionally consider that Sky is a Regulated Provider within the meaning of GC C1.10 and is required to comply with that condition in respect of its pay TV services.”

At the end of the day Ofcom clearly directed Pay TV providers to send ECNs, which is a pro-consumer measure and something we support. Nevertheless, we can understand Sky’s argument on the technical detail, although today’s preliminary decision by the regulator suggests that they aren’t going to bend toward Sky’s interpretation.

Ofcom is now giving Sky some time to respond to their findings and they intend to reach a final decision by the end of summer 2021, unless it all ends up in court.

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27 Responses
  1. André says:

    Regardless of whether they are technically right or not, it doesn’t paint them in a very good light if they fight this out in court… It does make it look like they’re opposing transparency with their customers.
    Honest question, are Sky actually even still relevant, bearing in mind the huge number of cheaper streaming services available to most of the population these days? I’ve not had their services for nearly a decade so can’t really comment but it doesn’t seem like they offer anything particularly enticing, and they’re pretty expensive…

    1. AQX says:

      You’ll most likely need to factor in that NowTV is owned by Sky so they are still relevant, as far as I’m aware Sky does have a fairly large subscriber base but I can’t find any annual reports past 2018 which would show their most recent noted subscriber count.

    2. André says:

      Ah, thank you. Didn’t know they owned NowTV 🙂

    3. Kev says:

      You won’t find details of annual reports from 2018 as they were taken over by Comcast in the US. You’ll find details on their corporate site. 24 million subscribers across Europe is their last reported figures.

    4. RR says:

      For the first time in over a decade I will certainly not be renewing any reduced contract this time with sky, now I have faster broadband the world has opened up to what I can now comfortably stream. I can honestly say I havent watched a broadcast channel for months.
      And what pee’s me right off is that I cant cancel online they still insist that you phone them up.

    5. AQX says:

      @RR that same issue you pose of contacting is the same for every ISP to the best of my knowledge. Why would they let you cancel online when you can call in j get educated by the agent taking the call on things such as double bills & potentially different speeds/content etc? That would cause more disconnections which is ultimately against a suppliers interest hence the call requirements.

  2. Michael V says:

    Sky have never put it’s customers first. Every company that provides a service of internet & TV should send end of contract notifications to their customers.

    1. AQX says:

      That’s why Ofcom have intervened. It’s a requirement and has been since February 15 2020. https://www.ofcom.org.uk/about-ofcom/latest/media/media-releases/2020/companies-must-tell-customers-about-their-best-deals

    2. NE555 says:

      > Sky have never put it’s [sic] customers first.

      Then how come Sky consistently have the lowest Ofcom complaint rates for broadband, fixed line telephony *and* pay TV services?

      https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2021/02/vodafone-attract-most-uk-broadband-isp-complaints-in-q3-2020.html

      At very least, it means that when complaints do occur, they are usually resolved to the customer’s satisfaction before getting escalated to Ofcom.

    3. Spurple says:

      @NE55, If you make a complaint to Sky, they can mothball you until 28 days have passed, then they send you a canned message saying “we’ve tried unsuccessfully to contact you so we’re closing this complaint “. And it’s not worth the stress of following up.

      This was my experience recently. I’m now rid of them for a good long while.

  3. a welshman says:

    surely how hard can it be to write a software programme to automatically send out notifications . as far as im aware all the other isp,s do it

    1. AQX says:

      You’d be surprised how reluctant some ISPs can be because it may require additional processing power to constantly check & send.

    2. Winston Smith says:

      It really doesn’t take any significant computing power to send EOC notifications.

  4. Midge says:

    To clarify Sky do send out end of contract notifications for broadband and mobile (I have their mobile plan and just found out I can change it every month if I want to.) it’s just TV that they don’t at the moment. Saying that I took a deal with TV and broadband and the person I spoke to said when I get my reminder for the broadband then I know when my TV is due as well. Not that big of a deal in my eyes

  5. dave says:

    I’m with Sky on the wording, it couldn’t be clearer. Regardless, they should issue the notices but IMO the wording needs to be changed to force them.

  6. Hmp says:

    I ask them to many questions and they like to bluff as off.

    Like any large organisations they will all send you from pillar to lists

    A rule should be made they must tell you when your contract is ending and also publish all complaints and also I have a questions do you really need a telephone line to run data?

    Well you can buy a dongle and get inter net from it so why sell us a telephone line?

    Your’s Faith’s Fully’s

    1. AQX says:

      In regards to the telephone, for any provider who uses Openreach lines this is a requirement as the same cable passes the broadband through it. Not every provider requires it such as Virgin & some new OpenReach installations.

  7. C McCann says:

    I ended up paying for Sky for months after my contract ended and I no longer had Sky TV or their box connected. I also carried on paying for a sim package they no longer sell as its no good, after my contract ended. They should have to notify all customers when any contract with them ends. Its out of order that they can just keep taking money and the customer can do nothing about it.

    1. dave says:

      Two words: personal responsibility.

  8. Paul says:

    We only have Sky TV no broadband we have a rural Broadband provider as copper works out at about 8mb. A notification would be useful the first I normally realise I’ve fallen of a deal is when I look at the bank statements and get a shock! Sky is relevant they still have alot of really good content especially at the high end will they shift towards cheaper productions like Netflix I suppose they probably will. They obviously recognise the changing market with Netflix deals bundled in. Personally if you can haggle a deal it’s not terrible value. We do have technical issues with the skyQ box which doesn’t do well with multiple outputs and often black screens and requires a reset which they seem unable or unwilling to fix.

  9. Alan Peters says:

    I didn’t realise my contract was finished until my bill went up from £42 to £70 just for TV. I rang them up and cancelled it, who wants to watch football or any other sports without spectators?

  10. JP says:

    I’m more concered with the on-going pixelation issues affecting multiple users when trying to watch or record Sky One HD and Fox HD, which despite combined efforts on their forum and matching of issues/times has resoluted in us being ignored.

  11. Lisa Marsh says:

    My mums moved into the care of my sister after 6 weeks I still can’t cancel her sky. I give up and just cancelled her direct debit. She’s 88 and unable to use technology and no one will speak on the phone

    1. NE555 says:

      > I give up and just cancelled her direct debit.

      Don’t do that: you will rack up debt instead, since they are entitled to assume you are still using the service.

      Terminate the service properly, in writing, sent “signed for”. They then can’t argue that they didn’t receive it.

      Or go into a store: https://www.sky.com/shop/store-locator/stores

  12. Samtano1 says:

    Hi, yes I agree with the other comments made about sky,I have also had issues with increased prices in the past without notice, surly it’s not to much to ask just to be upfront onest and transparent, you gain more respect from your customers.

  13. Ben Constance says:

    Think some people need spoon fed am I the only person that uses my online services that the majority of providers offer.

    I check my Vodafone bills upcoming and past in their app and as for my sky bill I can go back at least a year and at least three months in advance.

    Think we all need to be taking some accountability to check our bills which is totally separate to the issue of end of contract notifications as the bill checking in advance has always been available to the best of my knowledge.

    Feel like as consumers we all quick to blame a provider and never take any accountability to check things ourselves.

    Real basic example let’s say you also do your shop in Tesco and never anywhere else and you know overall your rough basket price is always “x” then you go in the next week or month and pick up all the same stuff and your basket price is “y” that’s not Tesco’s fault as they show the prices on the item…

    Point being you would not complain to a supermarket that an item not on promotion is not a good price so why do we all find it socially acceptable to blast firms like sky, bt, Virgin etc when an offer ends and you have the tools and means to be all over this…..

    1. AODDK says:

      Very well said! I use to work for Sky’s T2 technical team and people would often mention billing and offers expiring. I always said you have the tools to check exactly what your bills are, were and will be through your box, the website and the app. People can setup bill reminders too, but obv noone has 60 seconds to spare.

      Thankfully I know work in their reliability team so can say goodbye to customers.

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