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.
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.