What’s next for consumer protection in telecoms?

There is no doubt that nowadays consumers are more likely, than ever before, to complain if they are unhappy with their network provider. Regulators and consumer groups keep a watchful eye to ensure fair dealings. Consumer expose stories are popular with the media.

Now a revision of regulations next year aims to simplify and modernise the full set of General Conditions of Entitlement – i.e. the conditions applicable to all providers of electronic communications networks and services.

The amendments to the consumer protection rules are set out in the consultation published in September by the UK telecoms watchdog Ofcom. If the proposed amendments are agreed early next year, the new conditions will come into force in October 2018.

The most significant amendment is the inclusion of data services in billing accuracy compliance programmes, Metering and Billing Approval audits, and provision of billing information on request to mobile phones users.

The changes include:

  • A single billing New General Condition C3 will replace the existing conditions on Metering and Billing (GC11), Itemised Bills (GC12) and Non-Payment of Bills (GC13). Some consequential amendments will also be made to the Metering and Billing Direction to align it with the new General Condition.
  • A new definition of Publicly Available Internet Access Service. This has been created to sit alongside the existing definition of Publicly Available Telephone Service, to give these two services parity as Regulated Services offered by Regulated Providers, and to extend existing obligations to provision of both voice and data access services.

A Publicly Available Telephone Service is any service which can be used to make calls using numbers from a national or international telephone numbering plan. Where this is delivered using IP technology such as LTE, VoLTE, or VoIP, these are eligible for inclusion due to Ofcom’s technology neutral approach to regulation.

As before, charging should be in compliance with terms and conditions easily available to End-Users, who also have the right to request information on their consumption to allow them to control that consumption and to verify its accuracy.

A Publicly Available Internet Access Service provides access to the internet for the public, regardless of technology or product type (although an exclusion in the definition clarifies that links to private networks are not included).

Increasingly consumers are buying bigger and bigger data bundles as we become less office based and more reliant on smart phones to do business. Students and younger people consume more data from their mobiles – ask any teenager. It can be expensive. Data is therefore now considered a core service to consumers.

The regulations mean charging for data must be as transparent as that for using voice services. The terms and conditions should be easily accessible and available on request.

In its consultation, Ofcom has made it clear operators will satisfy the regulations by providing information for the total of the billing period. In the past they had been obliged to itemise the bill. Now the emphasis in on providing adequate billing information.

Our product at Roscom is mapped across to the Ofcom requirements and we are prepared for this new legislation. Precision engineering from our aerospace background, a test call generation system which is calibrated, and ten years certification for accuracy by TÜV SÜD BABT (Metering and Billing Approval Body appointed by Ofcom) mean we are ahead of the curve.

We know, from our reputation, that British innovation and history counts. We have been in the telecoms space for 35 years now.

We understand where the risks lie and how to ensure revenue. Our 360 degree integrated approach ensures nothing gets missed. Now the data bundles are to be included this is more vital than ever. Consumers want accurate bills. Network operators want accurate bills. Now the regulators are making it even more of a must than before, we’ll be working with the operators to ensure every second counts.

Mandy Blackburn, Operations Director, Roscom