SENT ON BEHALF OF TRADING STANDARDS
New Ofcom rules to better protect consumers come into force on 1 October
Consumers will be better protected against nuisance calls, and vulnerable customers treated more fairly, when new strengthened rules are introduced on Monday 1 October 2018.
Last year, Ofcom completed a comprehensive review of the General Conditions – the regulatory rules that all communications providers must follow to operate in the UK. The aim of the review was to update their rules to ensure that consumers have the protection they need against sharp practices, and to support Ofcom’s enforcement work. The resulting changes place tougher requirements on all UK communications providers, in a range of areas including nuisance calls, complaints handling and the protection of vulnerable customers.
In summary, the new rules will:
Help to better protect people against nuisance calls
- Phone companies will be banned from charging customers for caller display, a service which helps people to screen unwanted calls;
- Telephone numbers displayed to people receiving calls must be valid and allow a person to call the number back;
- Phone companies must take steps to identify and block calls which carry invalid numbers – a feature of many nuisance calls – so they don’t get through to consumers in the first place; and
- Ofcom will be able to take back blocks of numbers from communications providers if they are found to have been systematically used to cause harm or anxiety to people, such as to make nuisance calls or perpetrate scams or fraud.
Require telecoms companies to treat vulnerable customers fairly
- Communications providers must introduce policies for identifying vulnerable customers – such as people with learning or communication difficulties or those suffering physical or mental illness or bereavement – to ensure they are treated fairly.
Help ensure that complaints and customer requests are handled appropriately
- All communications providers must ensure that customer concerns are dealt with promptly and effectively;
- Customers must be kept informed about the progress of their complaint and be allowed faster access to dispute resolution services in cases where the matter cannot be resolved by their provider; and
- Ofcom is issuing new guidance to providers on handling customers’ requests to cancel their contract. This should include allowing customers to cancel by phone, email or webchat, and ensuring incentive schemes for customer service agents do not encourage poor behaviour.