30 March 2013
Panel publishes workplan 2013-14
The Communications Consumer Panel is an independent group of experts established under the Communications Act 2003. Its role is to provide advice to Ofcom to ensure that the interests of consumers, including small businesses, are central to regulatory decisions. The Panel also provides advice to Government and champions consumers' communications interests with industry.
The Panel publishes a monthly newsletter providing a round-up of its activities and current issues affecting consumers in the communications market. If you would like an email alert when the newsletter is published, please email email@example.com and we will add you to our list. Click here to read our latest newsletter.
In response to the nuisance calls research published by Ofcom today, the Communications Consumer Panel has called for greater collaboration by the relevant authorities; swifter and robust action against offenders; and increased support for consumers, including better use of technology such as Caller Line Identifier (CLI), which should be offered free.
Jo Connell, the Panel’s Chair, said, “Ofcom’s research confirms our concerns that nuisance calls are a widespread problem for the majority of consumers, with older people more likely to be targeted. The study highlights that four in five (82%) of adults have experienced a nuisance call. The research also shows that significantly higher levels of nuisance calls were experienced by older consumers, some of who may struggle to answer the phone, only to find an uninvited and unwelcome call.”
The Panel welcomes BT’s agreement to display full incoming international numbers as routine. The Panel also believes that communications providers should provide all CLI data to consumers free of charge and by default. Jo said “CLI technology is a key feature in helping protect consumers and one of the few defences available directly to the consumer. As the service provided by telephone companies, and paid for by consumers, is being abused, it seems logical for CLI to be freely available.”
“The progress on tackling nuisance calls reported by Ofcom today is welcome and we appreciate that Ofcom is working collaboratively with other authorities and industry to address this issue. Currently, there are a number of public authorities with a key role to play – however no single authority has ultimate responsibility for dealing with the problem. We urge these authorities to think strategically about long term solutions so that the problem can be better resolved. Together, they need to assess which actions could bring about the most benefit; who the lead organisation will be and outline the timescales in which short, medium and long term actions will be undertaken.”
Panel endorses new consumer guide to nuisance calls and messages http://consumers.ofcom.org.uk/2012/10/tackling-nuisance-calls-and-messages/
In its response to the Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) Communications Review the Panel has said that the Act should ensure that virtually all citizens and consumers enjoy immediate access to high-speed broadband and ubiquitous mobile coverage.
Panel Chair Jo Connell said that there must be provision for intervention to achieve this: “There will be cases where, for understandable economic reasons, the market does not provide the infrastructure and services that consumers and citizens need,” she explained. She said that Government was going some way towards ensuring near-universal broadband but that “it now needs to redouble its efforts to encourage, and support tangibly, the wide range of initiatives to improve digital participation”.
The Communications Consumer Panel was established under the Communications Act 2003 by Ofcom, the regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries.
Ofcom is now looking to appoint two members to the Panel from September 2012.
The Panel has a broad remit, providing independent advice to Ofcom on consumer issues relating to the communications sector and also to other bodies, as the Panel sees fit. It operates in a dynamic, fast-moving and challenging environment where there are both new opportunities to provide for consumers wants and needs and new risks to consumer protection. Find out more on the Ofcom website http://jobs.ofcom.org.uk/vacancies/cc-members
Communications Consumer Panel Chair Jo Connell said it is a serious concern that the number of complaints made to the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) is nearly three times higher than two years ago: “We encourage Ofcom, the Information Commissioner and TPS to strengthen their co-operative efforts and take action to reduce the incidence of unwanted calls.”
Responding to the publication of Ofcom’s new research into broadband speeds, Communications Consumer Panel member Chris Holland said that the improving broadband speeds were good news. But, he reminded internet service providers (ISPs)that the Code requires them to give potential new customers information about their likely broadband speeds early in the sales process: “Consumers can only make an informed choice if they can easily compare different packages and providers.”
Commenting on Ofcom’s announcement about its plans for the forthcoming spectrum auction, Panel Chair Bob Warner said that UK consumers had already been waiting for some time for the benefits from 4G. He called on Ofcom and the operators “to deliver this without further delay. The decision to implement mobile coverage obligations for each of the nations shows Ofcom has listened to our arguments. The roll out of mobile broadband will also ensure that people who have poor or non-existent mobile voice coverage will finally benefit too,” he added.
While Ofcom’s latest communications market research highlights rapid advances in how people use communications technologies, Panel Chair Bob Warner warns far too many people and businesses in the UK still can’t get decent 2G mobile coverage: “I look forward to the benefits consumers should get through the Mobile Infrastructure Project and the 4G spectrum auction.”
The Consumer Panel has joined a group of consumer organisations and written to the Information Commissioner, Ofcom and Direct Marketing Association expressing concern at the increase in the number of unwanted sales calls and the nuisance and distress they cause. They say that considerable anecdotal evidence shows that the Telephone Preference Scheme (TPS) is being widely disregarded and that complaints are having little or no effect. The consumer groups are asking for a meeting to discuss improvements such as having consumer representatives in the discussions, the publication of regular complaints statistics, steps to reduce unidentifiable calls and a review of the current regulatory framework.