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Consumers to get better deal, says Ofcom

Outlines key priorities for 2006

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

Ofcom has launched a far-reaching consultation into the regulatory work it plans to carry out next year. The draft annual plan covers a wide range of areas including broadcasting, telecoms, consumer protection and the availability of digital services.

Part of the consultation, though, deals with the key issue of tasking the hassle out of swapping phone and internet providers. As reported by El Reg last month, Ofcom wants to make it easier for consumers to be able to sign up to new telecoms providers quickly, easily and with the minimum of fuss.

This follows on from this year's completion of the Strategic Review of Telecommunications which is designed to promote competition in the supply of voice and broadband services.

One of Ofcom's key priorities next year will be to ensure that BT sticks to its pledges to open up its network to competition.

"As the regulator and competition authority for the communications sector, Ofcom has a crucial role to play in furthering the interests of consumers by opening up markets, reducing market dominance and tackling anti-competitive behaviour," said Ofcom today.

It also plans to plug "sustainable, infrastructure-based competition in broadband markets, including the development of competition based on local loop unbundling (LLU)."

But while increased competition is to be welcomed, Ofcom wants to ensure that this is not seen as a green light by dodgy operators to rip off punters with unscrupulous sales techniques such as slamming.

"We have an important role in enforcing consumer law, protecting consumers against mis-selling and other harmful conduct," said Ofcom. "And in our role as a competition authority we make markets work better by tackling and deterring anti-competitive behaviour."

The consultation closes on February 10 and the final version of the plan will be published in early April 2006. ®

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