In her first speech since becoming chief executive of UK telecoms regulator Ofcom, Sharon White made clear where her priorities lie: customer service is key for the new Ofcom head, who is six months into the job.
“People legitimately expect and demand more from their communications than ever before. Service failure, where once an inconvenience, can today be very costly for people in terms of loss of business, disrupted access to public services or social isolation,” said White (pictured).
And if an operator – mobile or fixed – fails to deliver then users must have the right to find an alternative.
White said Ofcom will next month announce plans to make it easier for mobile phone customers to change provider. It will publish a public consultation on a new set of proposals.
In addition, a new consumer switching regime will launch in the UK on 20 June for fixed operators. From this date, changing landline and broadband subscription between providers using Openreach, BT’s arms-length access network, is due to become easier.
Under the new regime, the responsibility for the switch shifts to the company to which the user is moving.
And later today (11 June), Ofcom will published a beefed-up Code of Practice on fixed broadband speeds. “The speeds code has been around since 2008 and, like the sector, it has to move on,” said White.
“The new version of the Code gives consumers the opportunity to walk away from contracts when speeds fall below acceptable levels, giving real power to the elbow of consumers,” she added.
New customers will be able to leave broadband providers during the whole term of the contract, not just the first three months, if they suffer problems that cannot be resolved.
BT, EE, KC in Hull, Plusnet, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media are the providers impacted by the new code. EE is also the UK’s leading mobile operator, as well as running a broadband network. It is the subject of a takeover bid from BT, the country’s fixed incumbent.