UK pay-TV & broadband firms to put fairness first

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The UK’s biggest broadband, phone and pay-TV companies have committed to put fairness at the heart of their business, after signing up to Ofcom’s new Fairness for Customers commitments.

The media regulator has developed the commitments to strengthen how companies treat their customers. They aim to help ensure people are always treated fairly by their provider – whether they are signing up to a new deal, trying to fix a problem or switching to a new company.

All the UK’s biggest providers have signed-up to the commitments including: BT; EE; Giffgaff; O2; Plusnet; Post Office; Sky; TalkTalk; Tesco Mobile; Three; Virgin Media and Vodafone. This covers the vast majority of broadband, mobile, pay-TV and home phone customers.

Sharon White, Ofcom Chief Executive, said: “I welcome the commitments the providers have made, and the action they’re taking to ensure customers are treated fairly every step of the way. Great service cannot be optional. It has to be the norm. That hasn’t always happened in the past in broadband and mobile services, but there is now a growing belief from providers that putting customers first is paramount.”

Margot James, Minister for Digital, said: “I’m pleased that all the major telecoms providers have signed up to Ofcom’s commitments today. They will not only help consumers get fairer deals, but will support competition by making sure providers work to the same objectives and compete on standards.”

Caroline Normand, Which? Director of Advocacy, said: “Until now too many people have received a raw deal from their broadband or mobile phone supplier. So it’s a positive step that all the major players have signed up to Ofcom’s new fairness commitments. Confusing and unfair terms, poor customer support and overcharging are just some of the problems people tell us they have experienced. Providers now have the opportunity to make things right for their customers by committing to offer good service, fair treatment and a straightforward solution when things go wrong.

“If you are unhappy with your current provider or think you are paying too much you should look to switch. A few minutes of your time could save you a lot of hassle and possibly hundreds of pounds a year,” she added.

The commitments in full

  1. Customers get a fair deal, which is right for their needs. Providers offer customers packages that fit their needs and have a fair approach to pricing. Prices are clear and easy to understand;
  2. Customers get the support they need when their circumstances make them vulnerable. Providers understand and identify the characteristics, circumstances and needs of vulnerable customers – such as vulnerability due to a disability, age, mental illness or having recently been bereaved – and act to give them fair treatment and equal access to services too;
  3. Customers are supported to make well-informed decisions with clear information about their options before, during, and at the end of their contract. Providers design and send communications in a way that reflects an understanding of how customers generally react to information so that they can understand and engage with the market;
  4. Customers’ services work as promised, reliably over time. If things go wrong providers give a prompt response to fix problems and take appropriate action to help their customers, which may include providing compensation where relevant. If providers can’t fix problems with core services they have promised to deliver within a reasonable period, customers can walk away from their contract with no penalty;
  5. Customers can sign up to, change and leave their services quickly and smoothly. Providers ensure that customers who are leaving do not face additional barriers or hassle compared to those who are signing up to new services;
  6. Customers can be confident that fair treatment is a central part of their provider’s culture. Companies can demonstrate that they have the right procedures in place to ensure customers are treated well. They keep these effective and up-to-date.

The commitments are a vital part of Ofcom’s work to help ensure companies treat their customers fairly. Many are already underpinned by existing consumer law and Ofcom’s rules. Ofcom will be monitoring companies’ practices closely and will step in where they see firms falling short.

Ofcom will also publish a progress report next year, reviewing whether companies are delivering what they have promised.

Commenting on the news, Alex Tofts, Broadband Expert at Broadband Genie: “It’s fantastic news for broadband users that major broadband, mobile, TV and home phone providers have agreed to Ofcom’s Fairness for Customer commitments. Too many broadband subscribers are potentially paying over the odds because they don’t regularly review their package and have simply accepted annual price increases. Many broadband deals are sold with discounts for the initial contract term, and although these are often good value for the first 12 or 18 months the cost after the discount ends can be substantially higher.”

“However, we won’t know the full impact of the Fairness for Customer commitments until Ofcom releases its performance report next year. We’d like to see more customers confident to switch their contract and fewer bill payers out of their minimum contract for the program to be deemed a success,” Tofts concluded.


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