/ Home & Energy, Technology

How will the Digital Economy Bill help you?

Telecomms

Well, firstly, it can ‘bring telecoms kicking and screaming into the 21st century’, as Pete Moorey, head of campaigns at Which?, reminded MPs when giving evidence in Parliament earlier this week.

Vast in its scope, the Digital Economy Bill brings together a number of different issues across our mobiles, broadband and nuisance calls campaigns over the past few years. We told the committee of MPs who are scrutinising the bill that there are four main areas to the bill that we think consumers need to see become law:

Switching

It’s incredible we don’t have Gaining Provider Led [GPL] switching in the telecoms sector yet.

GPL means that when you want to change mobile or broadband provider, instead of having to call the operator you’re leaving, you only need to talk to the one you want to switch to – it will take care of the rest. This would bring it in line with the banking and energy sectors, and you’d avoid the awkward ‘leaving’ conversation or being talked out of switching by your existing supplier.

We think this will mean companies will have to work harder to retain your business, and, as a result, there will be better deals for everyone as competition increases. This is proposed in the bill, and we think it’s vital that it stays there.

Automatic compensation

Whenever you experience a loss or degradation of service, your provider should offer adequate compensation to make up for the inconvenience caused.

Again, this is paid in sectors such as energy and water, so it’s baffling that telecoms companies aren’t subject to the same conditions. If you pay for a service, you should receive that service. Wherever it can’t be delivered, companies should be making that up to you in the easiest way possible without the need for long and complex complaints mechanisms. But companies will have to raise their games and treat customers better, because if they don’t they’re going to have shell out.

Ofcom’s powers

Currently, telecoms providers can challenge any decision that Ofcom, the regulator for the sector, makes in court and challenge ‘the merits’ of a decision.

In other regulated sectors, businesses can only challenge the process through which a decision was made – and decisions can only be overturned once they prove the ‘process’ was flawed. This bill is proposing to change the way Ofcom’s decisions can be challenged by businesses and bring it into line with other regulators. This is hugely beneficial for consumers, as decisions taken can be brought into force and the regulator will have real teeth to act in the interests of consumers. It would also improve competition and better protect customers.

Nuisance calls

Basically, more powers to the Information Commissioner’s Office [ICO], making its Direct Marketing Guidance statutory.

This means that ICO rules have to be followed, and companies that make nuisance calls can be prosecuted more easily – currently, only four out of 22 fines levied by ICO as a result of companies making nuisance calls have actually been paid.

From our Calling Time on Nuisance Calls campaign, we know that they’re still a massive issue for people across the UK, and over 80% have experienced one in the past month, so this is another step on the road to cracking down on the companies that harass us with unwanted calls.

But wait, there’s more

There’s always room for improvement and we told the committee so too.

We think the bill should introduce Director Led Accountability [DLA] for nuisance calls. This would make the heads of companies making nuisance calls directly responsible, and help close a loophole that many of these companies use.

Often, when companies are fined for making nuisance calls, they simply close their businesses and declare bankruptcy, then reopen under a different name and continue making calls. DLA would mean that heads of businesses are personally responsible for the marketing tactics of their companies, and any fines they receive. This then stops them being able to ‘phoenix’ in this way and closes an important loophole in the law.

So what do you think of the Digital Economy Bill? Is there anything else you’d like to see in there? What do you think is the most important measure?

Comments
Member

Going by the posts on Which most people want to see directors of companies fined but many ask , and I have answered , why cant we block all those calls through the exchange ourselves using codes relevant to the operation of BT equipment and why must we help the profits of some companies to go through the roof by being forced to buy call- blockers? If I didnt know better I would think we were helping Britain,s GDP by doing this while we can least afford it by the number of cut-backs in welfare support therefore causing the poorest in society to suffer even more by being not able to afford them. Why cant we have a real public led government department that will stand up for the people and trace those calls like the US -FBI does for its citizens ? This country is scared stiff to give the ordinary public any power at all , as soon as they are voted in its the proverbial “deaf ear ” and the Lord Nelson – I do not see it approach . While its a step in the right direction it could go a lot further.

Member
Michael P says:
15 October 2016

What I should like to see is the abolition of anonymous calls / number withheld calls from public bodies like the doctors, NHS, police – and from my vet. This is in order to enable me to carry on with what I’m doing if I wish (I have caller display) and safely ignore this type of call. As a backstop these types of caller can always leave a message on my answer phone if it’s important.

Member
Julian says:
18 October 2016

I believe BT Openreach is responsible for Virgin & other companies not being able to provide ftth to more of the country. With FTTH you can have broadband without paying line rentals VOIP which can give you more versatility other than just making and receiving calls.

Member

You believe wrong Julian– as I have said many times in the past Virgin has its OWN street ducting -its OWN cables to which BT are BANNED . In addition to this when a new housing estate is built all the other telecommunications companies are given the ability to contribute FINANCIALLY to the digging up,of roads/ the ducting ALL the way to the customers home –they ALL refuse to pay , this NOW gives BT exclusive rights to those homes just the same as some come to Which and complain that BT cant provide a line to them because OTHER companies have the rights to their home. BT is a PRIVATE company -you voted for it , you shouted out loud about it –and HMG listened to you , now you complain because its acting like a private company with shareholders , where is the equity in that ?

Member
George says:
21 October 2016

In my humble opinion, if national government took over more of these ‘essential’ services, the cost would plummet (no greedy bosses and share holders to pay) and we’d all get the kind of service we deserve!

Okay, so stick a few Coppers on the income tax bill to pay for it!

Ever since Queen Margaret Thatcher, we’ve had all these ‘small’ private companies; trying to cut each other’s throats for customers, whilst its been US – the customer- who suffers!

Nationalise the bl**dy lot – what have we got to lose?………………….

Member

George I can sympathize with your post ,but as I put something a lot milder elsewhere about government policy and got it ” under moderation ” maybe I should change my name to George.

Member

George – on what basis do you consider that there would be no “greedy bosses” if essential services were nationalised? Before they were privatised, the state-run industries were overrun by fat cats and big pigs with their snouts in the trough. There were more of them too as a percentage of management grades because they had monstrous hierarchies with boards and committees stuffed with fellow travellers on the self-indulgent gravy train. Once these organisations were sold off the stream-lining started and the squeals could be heard all around but, miraculously, service quality generally improved and consumer prices for many products and services actually fell in real terms.

Member
George says:
7 November 2016

I’m not saying there would be NO greedy bosses- just less of them and less of a need to satisfy the greedy investors in the Stock Market.