The consultation covers selling locked mobile handsets, video calls for 999 calls and easier switching for broadband.
Ofcom has launched a consultation on its implementation of the European Electronic Communications Code, which closes on 3 March 2020.
The main points on which comments are sought are as follows:
Planned ban on mobile firms selling ‘locked’ phones
Companies including BT/EE, Tesco Mobile and Vodafone still sell mobile phones that cannot be used on other networks unless they are unlocked. Unlocking the phones can cost around £10, and Ofcom research has found that more than a third of people who decided against switching said this put them off. In contrast, O2, Sky, Three and Virgin sell unlocked devices to their customers. Nearly 50% of customers who try to unlock their phone find it difficult. For example, they might face a long delay before getting the code they need to unlock it; they might be given a code that does not work or they could suffer a loss of service if they did not realise their device was locked before they tried to switch. As a result, Ofcom is proposing to ban mobile companies from selling locked phones, allowing people to move to a different network with their existing handset, hassle-free. This follows a change in the rules, introduced in July, that means mobile customers can now switch operator by simply sending a free text message.
New rules to make broadband switching easier
Currently, customers switching between providers on Openreach’s copper network can already follow a simple process, where their new provider manages the switch. However, this has not been available to customers moving to a different broadband network – such as Virgin Media. These customers need to contact both their existing and new provider to co-ordinate the switch and make sure there is no break in service during the switch. Ofcom research shows that more than four in ten people are put off switching because of this problem, with more than 33% of people put off by having to speak to two different companies and a similar proportion who worry about having to pay both providers at the same time. Under the Ofcom proposals, switching would be made easier for all, whether customers are switching between different networks or to a full-fibre service on the same network. Providers would have to compensate customers if they are left without a service for more than one working day. In addition, in July, Ofcom banned mobile providers from charging for notice periods running after the switch date and now intend to extend this to broadband switching.
Video relay for 999 emergencies
Ofcom is consulting on introducing emergency video relay. This would allow British Sign Language users to contact the police, ambulance and fire services in BSL.
Digital comparison tools – proposed changes to Ofcom’s voluntary accreditation scheme
As well as the consultation above, Ofcom is proposing changes to its accreditation scheme with the aim of making sure comparison tools continue to work for customers in the digital market. The new scheme aims to maintain the standards of Ofcom’s current scheme, while allowing greater flexibility for accredited comparison tools to innovate. The changes aim to ensure the scheme benefits customers as the market evolves. This consultation ends on 28 February 2020.