Ofcom launches revised rules on consumer protection and nuisance calls

The UK telecoms regulator, Ofcom, has launched a review of its General Conditions of Entitlement (the regulatory rules that all UK communications providers (CPs) must follow in order to operate) and a consultation on updating its guidance concerning the provision of calling line identification (CLI) facilities.

General Conditions of Entitlement

The revised conditions, which come into force on 1 October 2018, are designed to better ‘reflect Ofcom’s current priorities and concerns’, and are intended to be ‘simpler and clearer’ for the telecoms industry to comply with.

The changes can broadly be divided into three categories: (1) consumer protection; (2) network functioning; and (3) numbering. In summary, they will:

• strengthen the rules on complaints handling to ensure that CPs deal with consumer complaints quickly and efficiently;

• introduce a new obligation requiring CPs to establish policies to ensure that they take into account the needs of their vulnerable consumers; and

• extend the existing rules on billing accuracy and debt collection and disconnection procedures for non-payment of bills (which previously only applied to voice call providers) to broadband providers.

CLI Facilities

In addition, Ofcom is consulting on a number of changes to the provision of CLI facilities, which, according to Ofcom guidance, allow consumers the ability to ‘identify the person or organisation calling them’ and to make ‘informed decisions about how to handle incoming calls’.

Ofcom hopes that the proposed changes will improve the ‘reliability of CLI information presented to end-users’, thus providing them with ‘better information about the caller’ and therefore ‘assisting regulators and other enforcement bodies in tackling the issue of nuisance calls’.

In summary, the key changes will:

• extend the current rules on the provision of CLI facilities, including additional requirements to improve the accuracy and availability of the CLI data presented to call recipients;

• introduce new requirements on CPs to: inform their customers if CLI facilities are not available; to provide CLI facilities at no additional charge to their customers; and, where available, to switch on CLI facilities for their customers by default; and

• introduce a further requirement for the blocking of calls with invalid CLI data (common with many nuisance calls) to help prevent them from getting through to consumers.

Additional information on the revised conditions can be found here.