A theme about change seemed appropriate this week. The ability to change is a key aspect of consumer protection. Looking back over some recent releases from Ofcom it’s definitely something they’re grappling with.
I would imagine we've all been through the pain of trying to change from one service provider to another. But I've also experienced the benefit of the work being done to make it easier on consumers. In my case it was switching bank - and it was painless.
Telecoms is one market where I think it's still a little too painful. But there are some positive developments on the horizon...
Cancellation and termination arrangements
Since June 2015, Ofcom have been gathering information from Communication Providers (CPs) about how their users go about cancelling services. They're looking a variety of services from mobiles and fixed landlines to broadband and TV subscriptions.
From over 2,000 responses, the main issues uncovered have been "long wait times and difficulties getting through to CPs, charges for cancelled services and CPs failing to action cancellation requests".
But this isn’t just about gathering information.
This is also an "enforcement programme". They announced this month that they're going to be continuing this programme for another 6 months. The release said:
"This will enable us to continue our engagement with a number of CPs to secure improvements to cancellation and termination procedures (including, in some instances, PAC and porting procedures) to ensure consumers are able to exit their contracts quickly, conveniently and without error. We will also continue to monitor complaints, and CPs' progress, in this area and if we decide to take any formal enforcement action, we will publish separate Bulletin entries as appropriate."
Here's the link if you want to dig into this further:
£48 million a year spent to unlock mobile phones
While we're talking about leaving a provider, I came across this gem of a stat! £48 million!
Late on in May the government announced the first steps into making 7 day switching available across more markets. This starts by getting industry views on their proposals.
But they have already come to an agreement with the major mobile providers to enable us to unlock our phones, for free, when our contract has ended.
I wonder where the mobile providers will try to recoup £48 million a year from...
Do I mention the EU referendum?
I include this section tentatively. I'll also start by saying that in no way am I announcing my voting intentions, or representing any particular position on behalf of TTNC!
All I'm going to say is that I was reading through a guide to the EU referendum sent by ITSPA. They were presenting some things to consider in the tech sector, if the vote was to Leave.
This is just one point they made about roaming charges:
"With the EU due to abolish roaming charges entirely by June 15 2017, and UK network operators currently bound by caps on charges, it has been speculated that Brexit would result in higher charges being reintroduced. However, it should be remembered that the lengthy withdrawal process means it is highly likely that the UK would still have to comply with the roaming charge abolition."
In everything I've read from the Leave and Remain campaigns, this struck me as a very real point being made.
I'm now going to quickly retreat from this political hot potato...