Ofcom fails comms test
How much is that watchdog in the window?
A report by the National Audit Office found Ofcom could be providing value for money, but could do a better job of actually demonstrating what it is doing.
The NAO believes Ofcom is doing more with less and has saved about £23m over the last five years since it was formed. It spends about £122m a year - which is 27 per cent less than the five regulators it replaced.
But auditors warned that Ofcom failed to properly link its actions with outcomes in the market. It also pointed out that Ofcom does not make public how it measures its success or failure and that "therefore it is not possible for us to assess whether it is meeting its objectives".
Ofcom spends £70m a year on managing radio spectrum, which raises £200m a year for the Exchequer. The NAO said Ofcom lacked the high-level management information to show if this represented value for money or not.
The Audit Office said Ofcom had made good progress in many areas but noted that some subjects were still irritating consumers.
The NAO found 28 per cent of consumers still believe it is difficult to switch providers.
Unsurprisingly, the National Audit Office also criticised Ofcom's lack of action on broadband speeds. The regulator's own research found average UK speeds were 45 per cent lower than those advertised. Ofcom has introduced a voluntary code to try to address the issue.
The final issue is silent calls, which remain a persistent issue causing consumers irritation and anxiety, the report noted.
The NAO recomended that Ofcom introduce an internal performance-measurement system to see what impact their work is having. It should also make public these findings, said NAO.
Ofcom should separately consider the performance of radio spectrum management "to ensure efficiency and value for money are maximised", said NAO.
There are links to the pdfs of the NAO's full report, and executive summary on Ofcom's effectiveness here. ®
Ofcom need to become a proper hard-nosed regulator, now. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for relaxed regulation in industries that work well and treat their customers with anything more than absolute contempt.
But for the most part the ISP industry in the UK is an entrenched cartel (admittedly as a result of BT wholesaling) of knowingly dishonest operators who lie and mislead their customers, and this needs to be fined and fined until it gets its act together and starts adding value to the UK infrastructure. The time for these worthless voluntary codes of practice ended a decade ago.
Quite the opposite
"Ofcom seem to have stymied the Murdoch attempts to take over UK broadcasting"
OFCOM's actions have helped tighten Murdoch's stranglehold on UK broadcasting. Don't forget, it was OFCOM that initially blocked HD on freeview, giving Sky a head start in that market. When they finally relented, they insisted on using a brand new standard (DVB-T2) that was incompatible with existing HD Ready Digital TVs and compatible kit was rare and expensive. Thanks to OFCOM's desire to sell off the old analogue spectrum and cram the digital spectrum with shopping channels and +1 repeats, there's only room for 4 or 5 HD channels. So given the choice* between a crippled Freeview service or Sky's superior offering, it has always been advantage, Murdoch.
* I'm ignoring Virgin as they just repackage Sky and don't provide universal coverage.
Each time I have contacted Ofcom
my particular gripe has been "a commercial decision on the part of the operator therefore not within our remit."
Only one call to them (which wasn't really a gripe) has got as good a response as "That's interesting, we'll lok into it" when I said how, after they had ordered BT to cut some of their costs (O si sic semper!), BT then proclaimed in their own publicity how good they were, looking after the consumer by dropping their prices. I feel they should have been ordered to state, in equally bold print, that they had been instructed to do so by Ofcom.
I won't bore you with the details of what my actual gripes were, but I for one would like to see Ofcom replaced by something that has teeth and knows how to bite.