/ 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.

Member
George says:
7 November 2016

Just lucky I guess 😉 …..

Member

I can see what you are saying, George, but in the glory days of the nationalised industries any surpluses were just wasted on unnecessary or over-priced schemes and activities. Most nationalised industries had to be bailed out by the taxpayer – more than once in some cases. Utility company profits are in the 2-3% bracket – not a profligate amount. Investors only buy the shares because they are reliable and provide a portfolio with ballast, or because they are hoping for a take-over bid so they can sell them at a profit.

Member
natalie flemington says:
16 November 2016

In actual fact nationalised industries such as Electricity and Gas used to make a good profit and sank it back into better service for the customer. Everything was customer service focused and nothing was too much trouble. Loyalty and care. I worked for Electricity Board for many years and had connections in the Gas. The show rooms, shops were brilliant. Customers and their history were recognised and remembered in detail. They weren’t sold off because they weren’t profitable or because they weren’t in the best interests of us all as customers. They were sold off cheaply (family silver) for short term government gain and as our Permenant LOSS

Member

I was a fan of the gas and electricity boards when there was little alternative, Natalie, but they did lose their way towards the end. On a trading basis some of the gas and electricity boards were making surpluses but they were not covering the capital investment requirements of the industries and the price of their main raw material – coal – was artificially manipulated by the government. The showrooms were outstanding and some of them had lecture theatres and demonstration rooms, but they had a virtual monopoly of appliance sales which stifled innovation and development [their chief competitor was the Co-op which was hardly in the forefront of retail progress in those days].

Member

I agree with the proposal that directors who deliberately instigate or support illegal practices by their companies such as nuisance calls should be personally penalised. However, bear in mind that if it is a monetary penalty it is likely to come out of their company, not their personal pockets. Our prisons are overcrowded and underfunded. Perhaps we should establish a prison-type institution for the wealthier miscreants, with retraining facilities, that the inmates also have to pay for.

I would ask whether if a company chooses to liquidate, whether the directors are still liable in law – were they part of the company and therefore no longer exist? There seem a number of prosecutions in other areas – the NHS and the police for example – where wrongdoers have escaped prosecution by either leaving their post or retiring. Does someone know?

Member
EDWARD WILLIAMS says:
25 October 2016

Have sighned new contract under the promise there will be no increases while under new contract will talktalk keep to there word only time will tell?

Member

I wouldn’t hold your breath I just left them they will say tried to contact you regarding this and you not reply so matter must be resolved ha this is via text of which you cannot reply ! Took over 7 months with them and countless phone calls that supposed to be recorded to be told you have not rang them .

Member
Michael Magowan says:
30 October 2016

Hi , we have been quoted £10000 to get fibre to premises – a year ago by BT. Now they say we can get it for £150 per month for a 3 year contract. Up to 330 mb and 30 mb but cant say what actual speed will be or how long it will take. They can’t tell us what will happen after 3 years- instead offered us a 5 year contract. We are a small family business in the country on our farm, running a music and arts festival- who can afford £150 per month?
At present our internet is so slow that we can seldom run two computers at once. We are 3 miles from Lisburn a small city. What gives? Sometimes it is so slow as to not be able to load gmail. Very frustrated.

🙂

Member

Michael-BT state they have covered 90 % of NI with fibre , that means FTTC .If you live in a remote area that reduction from £10,000 to approx $5,400 is a big drop and is par for the coarse in the prices I have been advising those in mainland Britain would be charged under the same circumstances . What you would get is a minimum of 80Mbps but more probably nearer the top end it should not matter how long the fibre run is if its direct to you-FTTP/H . If you are provided overhead as most country areas are it will be run that way , a box placed on your building and fibre run straight to your modem . This work is labour intensive therefore a big charge . Years ago in places like Milton Keynes it was installed for a small nominal sum during its trials but that is now over . It could takes weeks or months to install depending on field logistics ( staff availability ) , it would be a week or two after the box was provided for the engineer to connect to the modem and “talk ” to the exchange equipment side to get it going . Every case is different due to different locations so saying a set time is almost impossible, if you lived in an area that was installing it as a matter of policy then it would be a lot quicker but individual applications for it in remote areas are hard to judge therefore BT is non-committal due to people suing them for wrong contractual statements ( phone calls can constitute a contract now ) . BT also have to cover themselves , what if after you got it in you said -right I am changing suppliers , hence the contract.

Member
wojciech says:
1 November 2016

When Bought the house was told – fiber no problem we will transfer your existing account, now 3rd year at the new property and no fiber, Openreach has no plans to do this in near future, this is middle of the city where 150m way next street has fiber, everyone around this estate has fiber, but apparently this site is not on the development plans as no interest in the fiber, as fair I know everyone on the estate is in same situation. Offered option is they would connect us if we pay for fiber being connect ted to the site, but after that normal charges for services would apply even we would own the network and fiber as we have paid for this. This is first country I have been living with such ridiculous situation. My comment to BT Openreach is Wow You are really 21st century company driving future for generations.

Member

Wojclech, my first question is why hasnt Virgin Media and , in London , the very large number of other private telecommunications companies not done the job. It isnt down to BT , Openreach is only a means of digging up the road and laying cable they arent restricted to BT by Law . Virgin lay their own cable and ducting . No , this looks like you got a “promise ” from the house builders that wasnt worth a dime , in reality if they had kept their word a contract between ANY telecommunications company and the house builders would enable the work to be carried out , they obviously didnt want to pay for it. On a new estate any provider can take over the telecommunications but BT has to offer ,by Law, to others to contribute to the costs —none do , so if BT elusively provide to any NEW estate then they have the rights to it , just the same as Virgin Media/ and /or others have that same right when they invest in an area . There are some areas of Southern England where the customers dont like the company they are with and want to go to BT but cant. NO your beef is with the building company for reneging on its promise , have you got it in writing ,in a contract ?

Member
Derek Anderson says:
5 November 2016

I live in a rural area and get speeds of about 1. BT say this is because The distance between the exchange and our community is too far and the overhead wires are not in a good condition. If this situation can be remedied is debatable but the promise to install fibre optics appears to be a ruse. The BT line is my only option as I can not afford more sophisticated systems on my pension

Member

If it is a “ruse ” Derek , then the latest figures of providing FTTP/H of £5000 ( approx) is also a “ruse ” and then BT would be lying but they do offer that with a guaranteed minimum of ( approx ) 80Mbps going up to 330Mbps you are forced to take out a long term contract so you dont change ISP,s as soon as the work is done. But that isnt relevant if you cant afford it . Being practical , if BT has admitted the overhead wiring isnt good you can take that to mean–its old and patched up , renewing that doesnt cost a fortune and depending on the number of spans maybe two days work at most , as the old wiring will have increased in loop resistance . Do you get noise+crackle/hum on it ? if you do you can ask for it to be renewed for zero cost.

Member

I respect companies that are honest about problems. Duncan is right that you should ask for the old wiring to be replaced and if you are hearing noise on the phone, that provides evidence that there is a problem.

Member
Christine Greatbanks says:
6 November 2016

Ask BT renew lines ha if you dare get them out they say it’s ur fault and charge you , they have had it there own way for years do nothing about bad service do not invest on there equipment update or up grade it just take profit , anyone I have spoken to have nothing but problems with BT and they don’t get put right and charge you for the fault had it there own way too long ! New customer had 2 week delay on phone change over and order cancelled twice by call centre person non speaking English you could not understand them or they you ?? Super fibre yep BB speeds don’t match to advert ? How can it be super fibre if run off old phone wires ? Drop outs faulty router had to return , over charged on bill i’m on anytime calls told would see to final bill from provider I changed from this has not happened it was BT fault connection was over 2 weeks after set date ? I thought all Talk were bad lol . BT ought be ashamed of there handling of accounts draw you in with promises then leave you high and dry . Shame on you !

Member

Christine , as both an installation engineer and maintenance engineer working for BT sometime before it was sold off up until around 1990 , I dont accept all you say I worked conscientiously in both departments first of all helping to increase the daily installations to 3 provides a day at least and when on the maintenance worked 6 days a week + 2 nights overtime, no slacking there. And remember that was in the days when engineers did everything except underground plant repair, which an underground dept. carried out , and ,unlike today we were out in snow drifts , heavy rain , you name it climbing 40 foot poles with ice on them , working on roofs with no scaffold or this new generation hydraulic towers . I came home dirty , wet , frozen but I carried on . THe union had a FREE installation system for severely handicapped people living alone in isolated areas where ALL the work was done in ONE day including the exchange work with the old strowger equipment , I have knee and other problems as a result , including a bad back problem so I resent any implication we were lazy or not up to the job . Of coarse BT has old plant as they were the original GPO but when asked by the government to provide Britain with Fibre and given tax payer grants to help ALL the other so called “good ” private companies said —NO ! why because there was no big profit in it for the shareholders all they were concerned with was taking business from BT by the easiest method Cities/ large towns where the most up to date plant was –ask them to provide to small rural areas Christine and what do you get -uh no ! . Dont you realise it will cost 10,s of £Billions to provide FTTP/H we are talking Defense money ? Are you willing to pay using your taxes . FTTC is still not enough if you are miles from the cabinet your broadband connection will not be a lot better than copper maybe go from 2Mbps up to 8 Mbps but if you are in the country with miles of overhead wiring dont expect any real improvement , do you see Virgin et al running to provide those highly expensiveness cable runs -shareholders -no way !

Member
John Wells says:
15 November 2016

I have found all internet providers deceitful in their modus operandi, slowing speed down once contract has been established etc. A MiFi box is going to be the solution.

Member

Okay if you have a good 3G/4G signal John and you need to be within 30 feet of it. Up to 5 people can use it although that will slow it down. Downloads are dependent on the rental paid/month , contracts are 24 months, unless you want low data downloads. On the plus side , if you have a bad landline connection and a good cell-net signal it might do the job.

Member
Martin says:
17 November 2016

The problem with all the this is the provider blames BT and openreach and Openreach Blame the providers, its a joke.

Member

They cant do that if its Virgin Media and its smaller clones, notable in Central London area Martin , they can only take the blame themselves as they have their own ducts and cable + equipment . Also take into account many telecommunications companies have their OWN equipment in BT,s exchanges thats part of the Telecommunications Act , so before you blame BT check out your own ISP to see what it uses. Also if any private company installs cable/ducting to a new estate or area then its up to that company to look after the equipment as BT has no access to it . Things are more complicated now in the telecommunications world as far as the law is concerned.

Member

I agree with the lady who says the gas and electricity boards lost their way towards the end. This was due to government intervention to make a break even business model owned by you profitable enough to sell to the few! I suppose now is the time to buy shares in private health care and cleaning services ! Or has that happened already!!!!!!!!!!!!!
And no I’m not a communist!

Member

Tony-cleaning services were contracted out by the NHS a long time ago and the instances of diseases picked up by patients rose dramatically , I worked in the NHS and also was a patient in many hospitals when younger .In those days the Matron came round to check the wards and EVERYTHING had to be s**c+span and ” god help” the staff if it was not, they had their own employed staff to do the cleaning and a good job they did , as it was checked regularly , I watched both the cleaning and checking , we even had to sit to attention (if we could ) in our beds Matron was “god ” in a hospital. Now “god ” is a commercially employed/ orientated hospital “manager ” more at home managing the profits rather than the hospital welfare of the patients —and NO ! I am not a “Commie/Red under the bed / Marxist/ I believe in moderate capitalism . why I have to say that I dont know but this country is getting more and more “rednecks ” whose level of thinking doesnt get very high. As an aside my wife worked as a Company Secretary for a large city firm doing office cleaning so I do know about that side of it too.

Member
Elizabeth Pratt says:
8 December 2016

I agree with that Duncan. I was working in hospital when contract cleaning was brought into our area. As you say infections rose dramatically and I do believe this had something to do with it. They were talking about going back to Modern Matrons, does not seem to be much happened with that either. Hospitals were spotless, nursing care was carried out to the highest of standards, the patient and family came first. Even the doctors had to tow the line what with Matron and Sister. I have nursed and had to ask Doctors and some nurses to wash their hands. Great pity what we have lost. Some patients do not even get a daily wash now. So, so sad. Patients are out of hospital in a flash – no waiting for the complications that could occur in certain circumstances, bed turnover and profit is first.