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The Digital Economy Act: the gift that keeps on giving

Digital UK

The Digital Economy Bill has finished its passage through Parliament and is finally law, but what does it mean for your rights in the digital age?

The Digital Economy Act 2017 had a long and winding journey to becoming legislation, and we’ve been there every step of the way to ensure consumers get the most out of this new law.

The Act is wide-ranging, tackling issues of switching telecoms provider, nuisance calls, access to superfast broadband, and compensation for consumers. So what changes will you see?

Gaining Provider Led switching

Firstly, the Act makes explicit Ofcom’s power to introduce Gaining Provider Led switching (GPL) across the telecoms market.

GPL means that when you switch telecoms provider, such as your mobile phone or broadband, you’ll only need to contact the provider you want to switch to. They’ll then take care of shifting everything over from your old provider, just like when you swap bank accounts or energy providers.

This means less hassle for consumers when switching, and no being put through to ‘customer retention’ when you call up to try to cancel.

It also means the onus is on your provider to give you a service that won’t make you want to leave in the first place.

Automatic Compensation

The Digital Economy Act also puts in place specific powers for Ofcom to introduce automatic compensation in telecoms.

This means that when providers don’t deliver the service you pay for, rather than you having to get in touch and make a claim, they are obliged to send the money straight to your account.

Of course, there are limitations as to where this is possible, but this power now means that Ofcom can push ahead with putting it in place wherever it sees fit – as it’s already done with broadband.

Universal Service Obligation for broadband

One of the headline provisions of the Digital Economy Act has been the Universal Service Obligation (USO) for broadband. This will give people the right to request a broadband connection of at least 10mbps if it isn’t possible to get a connection through a private provider.

The USO will also increase to a higher level in future years. This will ensure that no one is left behind as technology and speeds improve in the future. It may not get everyone lightning-fast speeds, but we will have a connectivity ‘safety net’ that will get everyone in the country online.

Ofcom appeals reform

The most controversial part of the Act was the reform to Ofcom’s appeal processes.

For years, we’ve seen what we called ‘a glacial pace’ of change in telecoms, with Ofcom’s decisions being frequently challenged in court by the big telecoms providers, even when these challenges weren’t really justified.

We argued strongly throughout the passage of the Act that reform was necessary, and now the Act ensures that Ofcom’s appeals process falls in line with that of the other regulators.

The new system is more balanced and fair, and should result in quicker and more effective regulation from Ofcom in the future.

So, with the new Digital Economy Act, the telecoms market is set to improve in a myriad of ways for consumers, with easier switching and compensation, tougher action to keep our data safe, better access to broadband for those in the hardest-to-reach areas, and a bolder regulator more able to stand up for consumers – result!

What do you think of the new Digital Economy Act? Does it go far enough?

Comments
Member

All very nice Jack and and a minimum speed too ? Please tell me how that is going to be achieved in long country runs of telephone lines and WHO PAYS for the upgrades as I repeat ad infinitum on Which ? Do all the 1 Mbps customers sue BT et al forever or until they install FTTP . practical engineering answers only please. Getting nearer election time blame everybody except themselves for promising the world to UK broadband users without supplying the money to achieve it .

Member

There are two ways in which I don’t think it goes far enough to protect consumers, one terms of spending online and the other is in terms of apps withdrawing support for devices which are a few years old, which still work, to force an upgrade that people may not be able to afford.
I think these 2 things should be included:
1. Verisign should continue to ask shoppers to provide a password when using their card online, to directly protect them from other people spending their money if their card is skimmed.
2. As it shows in this article on Which? from 2013, customers are losing out on devices – particularly early adopters who paid a premium – because multiple apps are withdrawing support from various devices. https://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/smart-tv-software-support-commitment-issues-bbc-iplayer-netflix/

Using an older Blackberry Torch (2009) that worked fine for social media two years ago (before I bought a Blackberry Android), I no longer have access to: Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Notifications and Pages manager, Twitter and Skype. With my only relative in another country, that means paying full network provider whack to text and call when previously I could use one of the withdrawn communications apps.

The Bill should protect people’s devices which still work as in this time of “austerity” many sections of society and those developing countries are simply cut off without a voice.

Member
Smike says:
6 May 2017

A reasonably good act, but information on it has not been widely promulgated.
Much of the Act’s provisions will happen without the Citizens knowledge, but when it doesn’t, people need to their rights, ant how to go about getting them enforced.

Member
Smike says:
6 May 2017

A useful act, but information on it has not been widely promulgated.
Much of the Act’s provisions will happen without the Citizens knowledge, but when it doesn’t, people need to their rights, ant how to go about getting them enforced.

Member

The “disappointingly amateurish and technically-illiterate” Digital Economy Act was the last straw.

Last Wednesday, 3 May 2017, Jerry Fishenden published a blog post,
ntouk.wordpress.com/2017/05/03/the-canary-that-ceased-to-be/

His resignation as co-chair of the Cabinet Office Privacy and Consumer Advisory Group (PCAG). The group has reviewed and commented upon a wide range of government initiatives, including predicting the disaster that become NHS care.data, the fraud risks of ill-considered “data-sharing” (under various guises), the troubled and late-running GOV.UK Verify identity assurance programme, the Office of National Statistics use of data, the “digital transformation” of the electoral roll, Home Office fraud issues, the Investigatory Powers Bill (now Act), and other proposals and ideas from across government.

The “disappointingly amateurish and technically-illiterate” Digital Economy Act was the last straw. Mr Fishenden had to resign. PCAG’s advice was “repeatedly ignored by officials who should know better” and those officials “repeatedly misled and misinformed” PCAG.

No doubt honest and able people like Mr Fishenden resign all the time, infuriated by official mendacity and incompetence, but it’s rare to see them speak out like this … … and rarer still to see them loose off another shot a day or two later, please see Gov.uk Verify and identity assurance – it’s time for a rethink, in which Mr Fishenden confirms and amplifies that GOV.UK Verify is dead.

Thanks to D.Moss for the info

Member

As for Verify it is horrible mess and in a long article Mr Fishenden takes it apart. Of interest to all consumers is is this small part:

” Verify requires citizens to establish a brand new relationship with a commercial organisation with whom the citizen has no prior relationship – and probably no particular desire to have such a relationship. In creating this imposed relationship with a chosen commercial provider, the citizen is obliged to disclose a wide range of personal information. Such data include for example some or all of:

full name
date and place of birth
full postal address
email address
telephone number
passport number
driving licence number
marriage certificate
birth certificate
bank account details
type and numbers of credit cards held
mortgage details
length of time at current address
loan details
If a citizen gets through this whole process successfully, the commercial provider will maintain the citizen’s credential – typically a user ID and password. This new commercial provider now controls a user’s online authentication and access to government services.

This approach is not the one originally envisaged for the identity assurance framework. The original idea was that citizens should use a trusted third party with which they already had an existing relationship – and which could therefore provide assurance about their identity.

Instead, an artificial marketplace of commercial entities has been nurtured and paid for by the Verify platform. These new third parties have effectively been given an exclusive mandate as commercial gatekeepers of citizens’ access to online government services.

This approach also breaks one of the sensible “laws of identity” set out by Microsoft identity architect Kim Cameron many years ago. It inserts a brand new third party between citizens and government which has no obvious place in that relationship. Given all the political sensitivities about “privatising public services”, it’s unclear when the Verify platform team made the decision to insert and mandate commercial organisations as the monopoly controllers of authenticated citizen access to online public services.”

computerweekly.com/opinion/Govuk-Verify-and-identity-assurance-its-time-for-a-rethink

Member

Patrick Taylor, your first post I will repeat what I have been saying for a long time – UK government -policy– “I/we DONT understand engineering ” started off at the beginning of the “Purge ” . Your second post since I came on Which I have been saying HMG doesn’t act in the interests of the general public but in the interests of Big Business (USA ) to howls of – Commie/Socialist/ your WRONG !! / constantly and unceasingly yet I gathered all the information over many years and decades as well mas constant emails from Freedom websites , mostly in the USA who know more about this country than any of the media are prepared to tell the British public who now live on a diet of constant war regulations of- a !need ” to know . Feed the public a line (Fake news ) and they all believe it and I am not just applying this to the Tory Party but “New ” Labour are just as bad , if not worse . I have been condemned , and vilified for even coming out with this and have waited to see just how much the British public could take , which ,it seems is a large amount of stiff upper lip . I have warned of third party information gathering to cries of -your lying Lucas operated by our own government and the US government who now legally have an “open house ” on all UK citizens info. I have said our security services can do what they want with us , cut us off etc and out comes – well if you have nothing to hide , even though this country is now the most spied on in the world. Well for those saying -we dont mind – the latest information is that GCHQ-et al arent even satisfied with that they have applied to REMOVE your ISP,s encryption to allow constant back-doors to YOUR Computer system , as we speak and you will say -well STILL okay – BUT will you still be saying that when the Worlds Hackers gain the same access and take over your computer just like the back doors in the Windows system which means constant “security ” updates -perpetually – no back doors – a lot harder to control your computer . I actually despair that it will ever sink into people,s heads the reality of the present situation where big business dictates what government policy decisions are taken BOTH sides of the Atlantic . Because I write this many “red-necks ” will think I am a “Red under the bed , I also despair of having to constantly point out I actually believe in capitalism ( with a small c ) but this is the propagandist state this country has arrived at.

Member

The good news… this Act will be useful, but only if you have a paper copy, you are somewhere very cold, have a box of matches, and need to get warmed-up. 🙂

Member

LOL !!! 🙂🙃🙂