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About the ACTs - more information

The Advisory Committees were established by the Telecommunications Act 1984  There are six committees:

CCE - Communications for England represents the interests of consumers in England

SACOT - Scottish Advisory Committee on Telecommunications represents the interests of consumers in Scotland

WACT - Welsh Advisory Committee on Telecommunications represents the interests of consumers in Wales

NIACT - Northern Ireland Advisory Committee on Telecommunications represents the interests of consumers in Northern Ireland

DIEL - Advisory Committee on Telecommunications for Disabled and Elderly represents the interests of disabled and elderly people

CfB - Communications for Business represents the interests of small businesses

The Chairmen of the six ACTs meet regularly in a non-statutory forum - the Telecoms Advisory Panel (TAP) - to co-ordinate their work, and to raise matters with the Director General of Telecommunications.

To view the following  TAP publications, please click on:

TAP Forward Plan

TAP Annual report 2003

TAP Annual report 2003 (welsh version)

Evidence to the Joint Committee of the House of Lords and House of Commons on the Draft Communications Bill

Consumers and the Draft Communications Bill - a seminar hosted by the Telecoms Advisory Panel (TAP)

TAP response to the Draft Communications Bill

Members of the country committees are appointed by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.  Members of DIEL and CfB are appointed by the Director General of Telecommunications.

Each committee meets at least four times a year.  Some of these meetings are held in public.  You will find a link on the home page for each committee to meeting dates and agendas.

The committees monitor and seek to influence the workings of the telecommunications market and respond to consultations from OFTEL and other government departments on regulatory policy.

As well as publishing written responses to formal consultations, the committees also:

  • Commission market research
  • Liaise with other national and local consumer organisations
  • Host seminars and conferences
  • Participate in OFTEL and industry working parties to promote consumer information initiatives or to develop regulatory policy
  • Publicise issues of concern to telecoms users

The public register of ACT member's interests can be viewed by members of the public, by appointment only between the hours of
9.30 - 12.00pm and 2.00 - 4.00pm, Monday to Friday. For appointments please contact Oftel's Research and Information Unit at Tel: 020 7634 8761 or E-mail: infocent@oftel.go.uk 

OFTEL

OFTEL is the Office of Telecommunications. It is the regulator - or "watchdog" - for the UK telecommunications industry. It is headed by the Director General of Telecommunications. The current Director General is David Edmonds.

OFTEL was set up under the Telecommunications Act 1984. Under this Act OFTEL has a number of functions. Briefly these are:

  • to ensure that licensees comply with their licence conditions
  • to initiate the modification of licence conditions either by agreement with the licensee or, failing that, by reference to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission (MMC) together with the Director General of Fair Trading to enforce competition legislation - under both the Fair Trading Act 1973 and the Competition Act 1980 - in relation to telecommunications
  • to advise the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on telecommunications matters and the granting of new licences
  • to obtain information and arrange for publication where this would help users
  • to consider complaints and enquiries made about telecommunications services or apparatus

Another area for which OFTEL has responsibilities is telecommunications apparatus. This includes granting Site Specific Approvals to some equipment for use in specified locations and issuing general Approvals to permit certain classes of equipment to be approved and connected without the need for third-party testing.

As part of this OFTEL maintains a register of apparatus approved under section 22 of the Telecommunications Act.

OFTEL also keeps registers of all licences granted - including any modifications of licence conditions and determinations, directions or orders made under the licences - and applications for new licences.

OFTEL has other duties arising from the licences of the operators. For example, OFTEL is responsible for administering the numbering scheme in the UK and allocates blocks of telephone numbers to operators.

OFTEL also keeps an eye on developments overseas. Nowadays most UK operators are international businesses and so are many of their major customers. So OFTEL takes a global view and makes sure that UK policies and decisions reflect international developments. OFTEL is also closely involved with telecommunications developments in the European Union.

Under the Telecommunications Act, the Director General has a duty to carry out these functions in a way which he considers will best:

  • ensure that telecommunications services are provided in the UK to meet all reasonable demands for them (this included emergency services, public call boxes, directory information services and services in rural areas)
  • ensure that those providing services are able to finance them
  • promote the interests of consumers
  • maintain and promote effective competition
  • ensure that those providing services are doing so efficiently
  • promote research and development
  • encourage major users of telecommunications services located outside the UK to establish businesses here
  • enable UK-based telecommunications companies to compete effectively overseas

The Director General has extensive powers under the Telecommunications Act, particularly when enforcing or modifying licence conditions. If a condition is breached, he can require the licence holder to comply by making an order. This is enforceable by third parties or the Director General through civil action. He can also make determinations.

OFTEL is a non-ministerial Government department and so is independent of ministerial control. The Director General is appointed by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and the appointment usually runs for five years.

OFTEL has about 200 staff, all based at Ludgate Hill in London. Some are from the Civil Service and others are experts from consumer, business and industry backgrounds.

OFTEL's funding is provided by Parliament but the cost is offset almost entirely by the licence fees paid in by the operators.

OFTEL can be contacted at:

50 Ludgate Hill
London
EC4M 7JJ
Tel: 020 7634 8700
http://www.oftel.gov.uk

 

Telecommunications Act 1984

This Act was passed by the government in 1984 to licence British Telecom when it was split off from the Post Office and privatised, and to provide a framework for promoting competition. Since that time other telecommunications network and service providers have been licensed, and now there are over 300 licensed companies. Their licences are issued by the Department of Trade and Industry, but monitored and when necessary amended by OFTEL.

Section 54:

(1)    The Secretary of State shall, as soon as practicable after the appointed day, establish advisory bodies for matters affecting England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland respectively; and each body so established shall consist of such members as he may from time to time appoint.

(2)    In establishing a body under section (1) above, the Secretary of State shall have regard to the desirability of having members who are familiar with the special requirements and circumstances of the part of the United Kingdom concerned (including, in particular, the special requirements and circumstances of consumers, purchasers and other users in that part of telecommunication services and telecommunication apparatus).

(3) Subject to subsection (1) above, the Director may establish such advisory bodies as he thinks fit consisting in each case of such members as he may from time to time appoint.

(4) Without prejudice to his power under subsection (3) above, the Director shall, as soon as practicable after the appointed day and after consultation with the Secretary of State, establish -
(a) an advisory body for matters affecting small businesses;
and
(b) an advisory body for matters affecting persons who are disabled or of pensionable age.

(5) In establishing an advisory body under subsection (4) above, the Director shall have regard to the desirability of having members who are familiar with the special requirements and circumstances of small businesses or persons who are disabled or of pensionable age, as the case may require.

(6) It shall be the duty of an advisory body established under this section to advise the Director on any matter -
(a) in respect of which any of the Director's functions is exercisable; and
(b) which is referred to it by the Director or is a matter on which it considers it should offer its advice.

(7) Each of the advisory bodies established under subsection (1) or (4) above shall, as soon as practicable after the end of the year 1984 and of each subsequent year calender year, make to the Director a report on its activities during that year.

(8) The Secretary of State or the Director may, to such extent as may be approved by the Treasury, defray or contribute towards the expenses of an advisory body established under this section.

A full version of the Telecommunications Act 1984 is available from The Stationary Office (formerly HMSO) at 18.00. ISBN 0105412848

 

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