On September 19, 2017, Ofcom decided to implement a number of changes to the General Conditions of Entitlement, the rules which govern all UK communication providers (CPs). The revisions will relate to areas including complaints, nuisance calls, billing, debt collection, disabled people and vulnerable customers.
The revisions, due to come into force as of October 2018, are expected to complement the existing conditions in a way that reflects Ofcom’s current priorities and concerns. They are also expected to be worded in a way that is simpler and clearer, making the conditions both easier for CPs to comply with and for Ofcom to enforce in the interests of citizens and consumers.
Summary of changes:
Bar providers from charging consumers for caller display facilities which can help people screen nuisance calls. The new rules state that telephone numbers displayed to people receiving calls must be valid, dialable and uniquely identify the caller. They will also require CPs to identify and terminate calls with an invalid or non-dialable number – a regular feature of nuisance calls – so they don’t get through to consumers.
To help providers comply with these new ‘calling line identification’ requirements, from September 19 until November 10, 2017, Ofcom will hold a separate consultation on Guidelines for Calling Line Identification Facilities.
Introduce a new requirement for all communications providers to have clear, effective policies and procedures for identifying vulnerable customers – such as those with learning or communication disabilities or people suffering from physical, mental illness or bereavement – to ensure they are treated fairly and appropriately.
Require all communications providers to offer disabled users access to priority fault repair, third party bill management and accessible bills. Previously these measures only applied to disabled people’s mobile and landline services, this will now extend to broadband.
Strengthen the complaints handling rules to ensure that all complaints are handled promptly and effectively, and that customers are kept informed about the progress of their complaint. Where cases reach deadlock with the provider, there will also be faster access to dispute resolution services.
Require broadband and mobile providers to have fair and transparent debt-collection and disconnection practices in place. This already applies to landline providers however they will extend current rules on billing accuracy to include broadband as well as voice call services.
The above further improves Ofcom’s objective to clarify and simplify their rules, making them easier for providers to comprehend.
Alongside publishing the main decisions of the review, they are also consulting on a small number of associated matters, including;
- Extending their powers to withdraw misused numbers such as those that cause harm or nuisance, or engage in fraud.
- Updating a 2003 directive outlining which public bodies may request services to be restored in the event of disasters.
- Producing draft guidance on how providers should handle customer requests for contract termination.
We will continue to report changes to the General Conditions of Entitlement and associated matters and will offer an update as and when they happen.