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Queen’s Speech: what’s in store for 2016-17

Queen's speech

As the Queen takes off her crown, exits Parliament and heads back to Buckingham Palace, we’ve taken a look at the Government’s legislative agenda for 2016-17, following this year’s Queen’s Speech.

So there are potentially five key Bills, all of which could strengthen consumers’ role and ensure that businesses up their game in a number of critical markets.

Here at Which? we’re really pleased to see some key proposals we’ve been campaigning on over the last few years – automatic compensation for dodgy broadband service, a commitment to faster broadband, mobile switching and tackling nuisance calls were among our highlights.

However, disappointingly one Bill that was promised in the last Queen’s Speech hasn’t materialised this year. We were expecting legislation to reform public services ombudsmen to help make your complaints count.

But here’s a breakdown of some of the Bills and what they may deliver for you.

Better Markets Bill

As we all know (but regulators seem to forget) markets only work, if they work for consumers.

That is why we’re pleased to see the inclusion of the Better Markets Bill. It aims to make it easier for you to switch your essential services and improve customer protection.

We’ve been asking the Government to look at how it could ensure that your complaints are dealt with better through the creation of an ombudsman for rail and air passengers. We hope this Bill will deliver just that and do more to ensure consumers are put at the heart of markets.

Digital Economy Bill

Broadband and telecoms services have become just as essential to our lives as other utilities.

In a big win for our broadband campaign, the Digital Economy Bill will include the right for customers to receive automatic compensation when things go wrong with their broadband. Hopefully this will extend to mobile and landline customers too.

We also saw a big win for our Unlock Mobiles campaign – easier switching, where the new provider will handle the whole switch. This is something we’ve long been campaigning for so we’re pleased to see the government committing to it.

There was also some welcome news for our nuisance calls campaign. In a move to ensure that consent is obtained for direct marketing, the Information Commissioner’s Office will be given new powers to fine companies that break the rules. Tackling how we give ‘consent’ to marketing is key to curbing nuisance calls and was called for by the Nuisance Calls Task Force.

The Digital Economy Bill will also mean everyone is entitled to a fast broadband connection – enabling you to read more of Which? Conversation, wherever you go 🙂

Higher Education and Research Bill

Our research has shown that students struggle to obtain the information they need to make informed decisions around university choices.

So we’re pleased to see the inclusion of this Bill that will allow more data to be provided to students, giving them more insight into student experience, teaching standards and value for money.

These proposals could not only drive up standards, but could also empower students ahead of one of the biggest financial decisions of their lives.

Lifetime Savings Bill and the Pension Bill

Following the 2016 Budget announcement of the Help to Save scheme and the Lifetime ISA, the Lifetime Savings Bill will bring those to life…

We will watch with interest as the Bill passes through Parliament as it has the potential to impact on pensions and auto-enrolment. So watch this space.

The Pensions Bill should provide better protections for people in multi-employer pension schemes (aka Master Trusts) and there will be a new pensions guidance body to help people assess their options with pensions.

So are you pleased with the progress on broadband? Or do you want more on mobiles? What are your thoughts on today’s announcements?

Update 6 July 2016 – Digital Economy Bill

Yesterday the government published its Digital Economy Bill which included lots of measures to improve mobile and broadband services in the UK and action to clamp down on nuisance calls. We have been campaigning for many of these measures with your help for a while, so we’re pleased to see the commitment from the government to help empower consumers and give people a better service.

So what does this mean for consumers in reality? The Bill means that you will now have a legal right to broadband and to request an internet connection, through the creation of a Universal Service Obligation.

More action can be taken against companies who break the rules on direct marketing which will give you greater protections from nuisance calls.

You will be entitled to automatic compensation when you don’t get what you’ve paid for or something goes wrong with your service.

And it will be easier to switch mobile phone services as your provider will do all the hard work, not you.

Telecoms are an essential service so we welcome these measures in the Digital Economy Bill and we’ll be working with government and others to make sure they are introduced swiftly so that all mobile and broadband customers receive a better service and are protected from nuisance calls.

Comments

Fibre superfast broadband.
If I enter my postcode on any of the compare broadband sites I am offered superfast broadband by many providers, however if I go to their buy it now pages I am then told it is not available at this time but I can have ordinary broadband. This is very misleading and in my opinion false advertising!

Only trouble is it is always the customers equipment thats at fault and you can’t prove it isn’t and you have to pay for the engineer and he will always take the side of the ISP (guess who pays his wages). It will make no difference except for cable customers.

Tony says:
18 May 2016

Guess who will de facto end up paying for the compensation. Hint – it is not the board of the Company involved.

Sue says:
19 May 2016

And, although this is all well and good, not at the expense of the Human Rights Act, which they intend to scrap.

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Peter says:
18 May 2016

It will be very unlikely for everyone to get fast broadband as people that live out in the stick will find it hard to even get a signal on there mobile phone and for a broadband to go down sometimes it’s down to the weather for or they will say is act of God or something.

talktalk is a load of C— if your broudband, phone or youview box conks out, they will send a engineer only if you pay £65 [even if it”s there fault]. colin.

If you are charged without your permmision write or phone talktalk and accuse them of theft
threaten them with going to the news papers
tell them you will see them in court
using this method i had £136 refunded

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I still question why some think there should be a universal entitlement to superfast broadband, whatever the cost. People make choices as to where they live knowing the upside and downside. Many may not have mains drainage. Many may not have mains gas and have to use expensive electricity for heating. Many may not live near a bus service. Many may be a long way from a hospital. Why is broadband so much more important to have than these more basic essentials?

Some things are “nice to have”. Others are much more of a necessity.

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B Barnes says:
18 May 2016

A fast connection does not necessarily mean faster surfing. And, if you live in a rural area you will pay big time. Why, no competition, as in formed by several ISPs.

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Today anything less than 100Mb/s is hardly fast and the term “super fast” should only be used for speeds of at least 10Gb/s. And as time goes by these speeds need to increase. I remember when 2.4Kb/s was thought of as “fast” .

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Duncan – If your copies of WW go back to the 1920s you will see adverts for ‘distortion-free’ horn loudspeakers, which of course is impossible. Misrepresentation in marketing has a long pedigree.

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I can remember when dial-up was “fast”.

We were probably among the first to take up the internet at home on dial-up. Pages were fairly simple and as there were very few others using the service it was more than adequate. It did get gradually slower and slower though to the point it was painful.

We were probably among the first to take up broadband, and that was also “fast” at first. It did get gradually slower but still not that slow. As others have moved to “super fast”, it seems to have improved and we have no problem with a download speed of 7.8 Mbps.

You are making me nostalgic, Alfa. While clearing out the loft recently I found my old 14.4 kbps modem that I had used for dial-up in the early 90s. I can still recall the distinctive sounds it made when making a connection and not being able to use the phone while online until I had a second line installed. In these days it was strongly recommended to state the size of images and pdfs on websites so that users could decide whether they should download files.

I’m more than happy with speeds of below 10 Mbps but most of my neighbours have switched to fibre broadband. Multi-users, TV, gaming and downloading films and music seem to be the drivers for faster broadband.

I was at a meeting yesterday and learned of a local initiative supported by the council and BT to promote superfast broadband. Apparently ‘superfast’ refers to a minimum speed of 24 Mbps. I did not see a single reference to ‘up to’, so we might yet see honesty in the industry.

It all seems to be about speed !!These days the only thing many people are interested in is how fast is it .Speed speed speed every thing is go or get things as fast as you can. You should slow down and relax more and enjoy more of love

This is all old ideas that will never happen but will just be talked about. Bit like the idea they had a couple of years ago that every school child would have a computer and broadband in their homes. How many have this now? Was supposed to be laptops I believe.

Hello everyone, today the Government (BIS and DCMS) opened consultations to review switching essential services as part of the Better Markets Bill.

Our Director of Policy and Campaigns, Alex Neill, said:

‘​Q​uicker switching ​will give people more power to ​force banks, energy suppliers and telecoms providers to up their game​ or lose their custom​.

‘Consumers will also benefit from changes to the telecoms market that mean they do not face charges to unlock​ their own​ mobile ​phones​ and receive ​automatic compensation​ when things go wrong. ​

‘The​ Government ​should swiftly implement these plans and introduce a new ombudsman to deal with air and rail passengers’ complaints.’

I very much support the efforts in the case of banks and telecom suppliers but with energy supply there will still be many people who do not switch for various reasons. Perhaps the solution is for the companies to compete for market share and for everyone to be able to buy gas and electricity at the same price. Let’s start to care about people other than ourselves.

The CMA report on energy switching concluded that a large number of those who do not change their tariffs know how to, know what the savings would be, but choose not to. I would not want to impose a course of action on people who are quite capable of making their own free choice. No more than making all supermarkets charge the same for food.

We should care about those unable to help themselves, and put process in place for them. For those perfectly capable of making their own judgments, and who exercise their right to do so, we have no right to interfere.

Hi all, an update for you:

Yesterday the government published its Digital Economy Bill which included lots of measures to improve mobile and broadband services in the UK and action to clamp down on nuisance calls. We have been campaigning for many of these measures with your help for a while, so we’re pleased to see the commitment from the government to help empower consumers and give people a better service.

So what does this mean for consumers in reality? The Bill means that you will now have a legal right to broadband and to request an internet connection, through the creation of a Universal Service Obligation.

More action can be taken against companies who break the rules on direct marketing which will give you greater protections from nuisance calls.

You will be entitled to automatic compensation when you don’t get what you’ve paid for or something goes wrong with your service.

And it will be easier to switch mobile phone services as your provider will do all the hard work, not you.

Telecoms are an essential service so we welcome these measures in the Digital Economy Bill and we’ll be working with government and others to make sure they are introduced swiftly so that all mobile and broadband customers receive a better service and are protected from nuisance calls.

Here it is for you 🙂 http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2016-17/digitaleconomy.html

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Maybe it means ‘up to 10 Mbps’ in the terminology of most ISPs, which means that no further expenditure is needed.

To be serious, I wonder if the Universal Service Obligation has been properly costed.

I am a little bit worried that there seems to be no consideration of band-width hogs and whether we will be talking of the technical ability to receive 10mbs and then a caveat for other factors.

Still early days to worry.

The other more certain concern is that the bigger you build the pipe and speed the more content providers are going to fill it with videos and films in greater and greater resolution. You will appreciate that I do not wish to pay for an enormous infrastructure so people can watch films. I think that firms like Netflix and the BBC should pay for excess usage fees and reduce the amount subscribers in general pay.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

This comment was removed at the request of the user