Feeds

Save Ofcom! Telcos and consumer groups call for end to legal disputes

Regulator spends too much time+cash bogged down in litigation, says open letter

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

Consumer groups and two telcos have written to the government in support of Ofcom's attempts to revamp its appeals process and stop legal challenges from obstructing its rulings.

Which?, Consumer Futures, Three and TalkTalk have all signed a letter to culture secretary Maria Miller and business secretary Vince Cable that says the current system has a "chilling effect on policy" and needs to be reformed.

Ofcom has been pushing the government for changes to its appeals system, which allows complainants to pursue their appeals in the Competition Appeals Tribunal and even onto the European Competition Commission.

Under the current appeals structure, Ofcom has nearly every new regulation challenged, often on legal technicalities rather than the substance of the rules.

The regulator has fought 61 separate appeals costing an estimated £2m to £4.5m a year for the last five years, and has lost out on some promises to consumers that were made years ago. In 2007, the regulator proposed an easier way to switch mobile phone operator; one that is already used in other European countries. But after seven years of legal challenges, the system still hasn't taken effect in the UK.

Although mobile users can change provider, it usually involves a drawn-out process of getting the PAC code for their handset from their existing provider and then waiting for the switch, which is supposed to take 24 hours but can take longer. In other European countries, users can change their mobile phone contracts from start to finish in less than a day.

"There are significant concerns that under the current regime, Ofcom's decisions can be derailed too easily, through technical challenges that ignore the substance of the regulator's judgments," the letter said.

"The routine use of legal challenges has had a chilling effect on policy. It diverts time and money into legal disputes and away from good regulation. This is bad news for competition, for the industry, and for consumers."

Mobile operator Three said on its blog that the government needed to update the rules to make it harder for regulations to be blocked on technicalities.

"Today it is too easy to derail change: It's why Three, Vodafone and O2 customers in Ireland can switch mobile providers in their lunch hour, keeping their phone number without having to get into a tussle with their old operator - and customers of the same networks in the UK can't," Three said.

The letter also said that, as a Department for Business, Innovation & Skills consultation on potential reform found last year, Ofcom's problems pushing through new regulations could be stifling the regulator's ability to regulate.

"We need Ofcom to be able to do its job standing up for consumers, not bogged down in slow and expensive legal challenges from industry which can derail the regulator's decisions," Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director, said in an emailed statement. ®

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
Auntie remains MYSTIFIED by that weekend BBC iPlayer and website outage
Still doing 'forensics' on the caching layer – Beeb digi wonk
Apple orders huge MOUNTAIN of 80 MILLION 'Air' iPhone 6s
Bigger, harder trouser bulges foretold for fanbois
Bring back error correction, say Danish 'net boffins
We don't need no steenkin' TCP/IP retransmission and the congestion it causes
GoTenna: How does this 'magic' work?
An ideal product if you believe the Earth is flat
Samsung Z Tizen OS mobe is post-phoned – this time for good?
Russian launch for Sammy's non-droid knocked back
Telstra to KILL 2G network by end of 2016
GSM now stands for Grave-Seeking-Mobile network
Seeking LTE expert to insert small cells into BT customers' places
Is this the first step to a FON-a-like 4G network?
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.