Itret Latif, Interim Chief Executive Officer at the Federation of Communication Services (FCS), exposes two key regulatory issues.
In Ofcom’s 2016 Strategic Review of Digital Communications it highlighted that competition is generally the best way to deliver good outcomes for consumers, but that for consumers to benefit from competition they need to be able to participate in the market and make informed decisions.
As a result of the need to encourage more consumer engagement Ofcom issued a consultation at the end of July 2018 (closing 9th October 2018) proposing new rules that will require communications providers to issue a notification to customers approaching the end of their minimum contract period.
In addition, Ofcom specified a requirement that providers needed to send a one-off notification to their customers who had already passed the end of their minimum contract period and were not informed at the time.
Unfortunately, there is again no discrimination in their approach. These notifications will need to be sent to both residential and small business customers alike (ten individuals or fewer).
Ofcom’s other consumer engagement piece includes looking at mobile customers continuing to pay the same price after the end of their minimum contract period, where the charge potentially reflects the mobile handset cost.
There is also a promised second phase which, in their own words, ‘Will consider whether some consumers have difficulty understanding their own needs and usage requirements; and/or who struggle to understand or navigate the range and complexity of deals and packages on offer’.
Should small businesses be treated in the same manner as residential customers? Surely business owners, who thrive on competition, are aware of their overheads and competent enough to be able to understand a contract?
If these consultation suggestions are enforced it will put further resource, process and system development pressures on small business communication providers who are already struggling with the implementation of mobile bill capping and CLI etc.