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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. ®

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