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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
Guest
Richard Atkinson says:
18 May 2016

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!

Guest
Bill says:
18 May 2016

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.

Guest
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.

Guest
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.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Guest

Yes Sue , I think that should be more publicized ,as although cameron is putting it about that it is “constricting ” to BB it is in reality stopping them from imposing near slave conditions for employees. I thought we had got rid of “sweat shops ” but it will come back in a “Bill of Rights ” that are heavily in favour of the “Rights ” of BB , its the worst thing I can think of , its like the devil being able to make the rules of society under the cloak of —“its good for business ” certainly will be but hell for employees not 2016 but Georgian values of 1816 . What next Third world child labour ?

Guest
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.

Guest
colin battison says:
18 May 2016

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.

Guest
malcolm richardson says:
18 May 2016

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

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Guest

They can make as many proclamations as they want , as may “statements ” as they want -we will do this or that – but at the end of the day -WHO pays for it ??? . BT/Openreach AND the government have already decided a long time ago that they could NOT afford the £ billions to pay for it . The government said no more grants , BT said we cant afford this as a private company so lets get real here and get some honesty , instead of the vast projects like HS2 and many more Southern concentrated £billions that are inputted , instead of Trident , instead of North Sea Oil being used for those and many more that have been used in the past that money had ,like Norway been put into a fund to help in situations like this we might have a real high speed network like Norway and other of the same ilk have . There are even some South American countries with overall satellite broadband with many earth stations that have high speed even in mountainous areas, so the question is who pays do the grants increase to BT to pay for it and remember NO other company applied to take over BT,s position when asked by HMG only Openreach , why because their shareholders wouldnt let them . So tell me who pays and please make it practical not “pie in the sky ” .

Profile photo of malcolm r
Guest

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.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Guest

Well said malcolm .

Guest
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.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Guest

B. Barnes do you honestly see many ISP,s getting together ?? never happen this side of the year 3000 . The only thing you get is —takeover of one company by another , do you think shareholders are going to go for this , ??? , show me the humanitarianism between companies , the comradeship of “lets pool resources ” , this is 2016 just look to America to see cut throat competition between companies and you want altruism from them ? Have you ever watched the stock exchange or how it operates -cold -hard – business facts no sympathy for the weak . Yes its a nice dream but reality ??

Guest
Joe Gluza says:
18 May 2016

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” .

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Guest

Well Joe 100Mbps is fast in many peoples eyes when they only have 5 or 10 Mbps but I get your point . Way back in time when high frequencies first started to be used in radio transmission “ultra high frequency ” was actually VHF frequency and I have the original 30,s radio/electronic bound volumes to prove it , like Wireless World etc . Then because of much talk about it the government introduced definitions of radio speed transmissions that took account of more modern electrical revelations , these were constantly updated into the 50,s/60s and used as electrical standard expressions . But now we are dealing not with government involvement ,nor even professional intellectual input but with commercial companies who,s rule book says -advertise and use words that are nearly breaking the rules of technical reality , you see Joe ,its not governments that rule us now but BB and “anything ” goes ( well nearly anything ) remember the saying and the most truthful comment of this age — it PAYS to advertise .

Profile photo of wavechange
Guest

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.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Guest

Ah! but you have to qualify that wavechange . I have a large amount of professional THD testing equipment like HP industrial stuff and have been building and testing audio power amps/pe-amps etc for many decades . Distortion values like 0.001 % exist nowadays and lower for high quality audio chips (small signal ) but in those days audio was only in its infancy stage and if a wireless loudspeaker could reproduce audio frequencies up to 5 Khz it was really something most cheaper ones were lower . As well as that wirelesses for the public had large amounts of hum/distortion so you had a vicious “top cut ” control right across the primary of the output transformer and the output valve anode , this induced cries of -“what a lovely mellow sound ” well it would be on a frequency limit of a couple of Khz or less . So “distortion free ” wasnt a “lie ” in their eyes in those days because their expectations on high quality audio reproduction was very low . That cannot be compared to the blatant lies coming from makers of cheap audio equipment nowadays , those people know full well audio specifications of high quality reproduction . No the pioneers of audio had to start somewhere and that was the limit of applied technology in those days. This applies to all aspects of scientific/medical/etc discovery since the beginning of time.

Profile photo of alfa
Guest

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.

Profile photo of wavechange
Guest

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.

Guest
bishbut says:
19 May 2016

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

Guest
Arthur says:
19 May 2016

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.

Profile photo of Lauren Deitz
Guest

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.’

Profile photo of wavechange
Guest

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.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Guest

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.

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
Guest

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

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Guest

And who pays for 100 % coverage of of the UK by speeds of 10Mbps and above ? ? Its all very well making statements but has anybody got the answer to this yet ? And if nuisance calls are re-routed from abroad what changes to the Telecommunications act will take place to force BT or others to change their exchange equipment programming ? This new legislation requires deep investigation.

Profile photo of wavechange
Guest

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.

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
Guest

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.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Guest

That “dry ” sense of humour in the first paragraph deserves an- I agree .

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Guest

Just wait till the complaints pour in —I cant get 4K-UHD films (25Mbps-MINIMUM ) .The public will never be satisfied , I blame it on advertising -“why be content with “ordinary ” HD when you can have UHD to go with your newly purchased pricey 4K TV ” .IT never ends diesel , when all you need for normal browsing is a few Mbps . I have never downloaded a film , the Internet isnt a Playstation for me , its an information retrieval and communcations network .