The Communications Consumer Panel carries out research, provides advice and encourages Ofcom, Government, the EU, industry and others to look at issues through the eyes of consumers, citizens and small businesses.
The Panel pays particular attention to the needs of older people and people with disabilities, the needs of people in rural areas and people on low incomes, and the needs of small businesses, which face many of the same problems as individual consumers. There are four members of the Panel who represent the interests of consumers in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales respectively. They liaise with the key stakeholders in the Nations to understand the perspectives of consumers in all parts of the UK and input these perspectives to the Panel’s consideration of issues.
The Panel engages with stakeholders to inform the advice that it gives and to help to keep the interests of consumers, citizens and small businesses on the agenda across the sector. The Panel also engages with a range of other organisations working on behalf of these constituencies - including those representing older and disabled people.
The Panel is often described as a ‘critical friend’ to Ofcom. We provide robust and independent advice that is constructive, realistic and cognisant of the trade-offs which regulatory decisions often involve. This is made possible by the fact that Ofcom shares information and ideas with the Panel early in the regulatory process, before consulting formally with other stakeholders. This enables us to give strategic advice on policies early on in their development to ensure consumer interests are built into Ofcom's decision-making from the outset.
Since it was created, the Panel has advised on a broad range of issues. It addresses them in two main ways:
- Key areas of engagement: substantial proactive work to push an issue up the regulatory or policy agenda or seek a specific change in policy.
- Keep under Review: The Panel has also kept many other issues under periodic review – particularly where the Panel has previously raised concerns and stimulated action, and intervening where appropriate.
The Panel’s objective
The Panel’s objective is to:
“protect and promote the interests of consumers, citizens and small businesses in the communications sector by giving advice to Ofcom, the EU, Government, industry and others.”