04 December 2015
Ofcom today published its proposed 2016/17 Annual Plan for consultation, outlining its areas of work for the next financial year.
Ofcom wants to make communications markets work for everyone. To help achieve this, Ofcom has three main goals: to promote good consumer outcomes through competition; to secure standards and improve quality; and to protect consumers from harm.
To meet these goals, Ofcom's proposed plan highlights some of its key work areas in 2016/17, including:
Promoting consumer benefits through competition
Ofcom will implement the conclusions of its Strategic Review of Digital Communications to ensure markets continue to work effectively for consumers, citizens and businesses.
Ofcom wants to ensure that people benefit from widespread choice, value, service quality, investment and innovation across all communications services including fixed, mobile and pay TV services.
To enable effective competition and promote consumer choice, information about the quality, availability and price of communications services is vital. Ofcom will provide more detailed information on mobile broadband coverage, fixed broadband speeds and quality of service, and examine how Ofcom's mobile coverage maps can be enhanced to reflect the quality of mobile data and 4G voice coverage.
In order to benefit from choice, it is essential that consumers can move easily between providers. Ofcom will continue its work to identify and address barriers to switching such as in-contract terms, and will consider whether there is a need to improve switching processes for mobile and for bundles of landline, broadband and pay TV services, so called 'triple-play' bundles.
In the past year there have been significant increases in standard tariff prices from some communications providers. Ofcom will monitor price increases, and ensure that pricing information is clear and that all consumers receive value for money from their communications providers. Ofcom will report on this work and announce next steps in the Consumer Experience Report in February 2016.
Securing standards and improving quality
Competition is at the heart of Ofcom's approach. However, where competition alone cannot deliver the best results for consumers and businesses, targeted interventions can be made.
Ofcom will continue its work to ensure that everyone in the UK can access the high-quality communications services that are vital for engagement in society. In particular, Ofcom will support the Government's plans for every home and business to have a legal right to request a broadband connection of 10 Mbit/s by the end of the current Parliament.
Ofcom will continue to monitor the quality of service provided by Openreach, which installs and repairs telecoms lines on behalf of providers. Ofcom has consulted on adding to its existing rules around quality of service for consumer lines, and proposed setting new targets to ensure that high-speed business lines are installed and repaired within an acceptable timeframe.
Ofcom will also maintain its drive towards ensuring viewers and listeners benefit from good standards on TV and radio by considering all audience complaints it receives against the Broadcasting Code. It will also ensure on-demand services meet rules and guidelines designed to protect audiences.
Protecting consumers from harm
Ofcom protects consumers from harmful practices or offensive content through its investigation and enforcement work.
Nuisance calls affect millions of UK consumers, and Ofcom will continue its work with the Information Commissioner's Office and other bodies to reduce such calls, while taking enforcement action against those generating silent and abandoned calls.
In 2016/17, Ofcom intends to implement an agreement between UK communications providers to introduce technical measures that can help reduce nuisance calls, such as monitoring and blocking problematic call traffic.
Ofcom's monitoring and enforcement work continues to be driven by emerging issues. Current investigations include work on cancellation processes and complaints handling.
Making communications work across the UK's nations and regions
Good quality communications services are critical to consumer experiences, citizen participation and the success of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Ensuring postal, mobile and broadband services in rural communities can present particular challenges.
Ofcom is addressing these challenges through a number of work areas, including the continuing review of Royal Mail; supporting the Government on its plans for a 10 Mbit/s broadband universal service obligation; and the information Ofcom collects and publishes on the availability, take-up and use of communications services across the UK.
Ofcom is seeking views on its proposed Annual Plan 2016/17, with the consultation closing on 26 February 2016. The final Plan will be published in March 2016, and will take into account responses from stakeholders and ongoing developments in the communications markets.
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