MINUTES OF THE 84TH MEETING HELD ON TUESDAY 29 APRIL 2003 AT 28
THISTLE STREET, EDINBURGH
Present: Jeremy Mitchell (Chairman)
Barry Stevens MBE
George Halford (SACOT Secretary)
Jan Edwards (SACOT Assistant Secretary)
Paul Rogers (Head of ACT Secretariat, Oftel)
Neil Buckley (Oftel) - (after lunch session only)
1. OPENING REMARKS AND APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
1.1 The Chairman opened the 84th meeting
and welcomed Paul Rogers, Head of ACT Secretariat, Oftel. Neil
Buckley from Oftel would be joining the meeting later to give
a presentation on EU Market Reviews.
1.2 Apologies for absence had been received
from Kenneth Murray, Peter Wilson and Katherine Phipps.
2. MINUTES OF THE 83RD MEETING HELD ON 18 MARCH 2003
2.1 Wendy Reynolds had submitted her apologies
for absence prior to the 83rd meeting although these appeared
not have been received by the Secretariat. The Chairman asked
that this be noted and otherwise the minutes of the 83rd meeting
3. MATTERS ARISING FROM THE 83RD MEETING
3.1 Project Allocation
3.1 All Members confirmed that the arrangements
for Oftel Project Managers to contact them were operating satisfactorily.
As this was now usually the case it was agreed that this item
could be dropped as a standing item on the agenda but Members
should report if there were indications that they were not being
consulted for the projects they had been allocated.
4. REPORTS FROM CHAIRMAN AND MEMBERS
TOS Council 8 April
4.1 The Telecoms Ombudsman Scheme was active and dealing with
complaints. Consideration was now being given to the implications
of the change from licensing to general conditions of entitlement
that would take effect in July. It had been proposed to hold
a seminar with internet service providers to consider what needed
to be done to encourage their participation in the Otelo scheme.
TAP meeting 15 April
4.2 Minutes of this meeting were still awaited (Secretary's
note - now distributed). The main items discussed had been Directory
Enquiry legacy numbers where the Chairs had a number of substantive
reservations, reflected in the SACOT response (see Agenda Item
9 iii) and on codes of practice where the Chairs felt that Oftel
needed to give greater consideration to the criteria against
which codes would be assessed to ensure their adequacy. It was
noteworthy that the Office of Fair Trading were considering
Codes of Practice generally and the need for them to be more
ii Members' Reports
Financial Services Authority - e-Commerce
4.3 Alastair Robertson reported that there had been no further
meetings of the FSA e-commerce committee since his last report.
Oftel Committee for Business
4.4 Alastair Robertson reported that he had attended the final
meeting of the CfB 'Small Business Task Force'. This had concentrated
on how they would wish Ofcom to relate to small businesses and
ensure there was an effective dialogue. It was recommended that
Ofcom should consider meeting with trade associations throughout
Directory Enquiries Consumer Group
4.5 Alastair Robertson reported that the last meeting had concentrated
on reaction to Oftel's consultation document on this topic.
There was considerable disquiet amongst both consumer and industry
representatives about how the process had been conducted and
agreement that had they been involved before the consultation
document had been drafted then the recommendations would have
been more apposite. There was general agreement that option
B was the worst and option C the best but disquiet that the
opportunity for discussion was severely curtailed.
Consumer Forum on Communications
4.6 Peter Wilson was not present to report, but see Secretary's
5. SECRETARY'S REPORT
Secretaries' Meeting, Edinburgh 24 January
5.1 SACOT had hosted this meeting, the minutes of which had
been circulated. The principal concern had been the lack of
contact from Ofcom in relation to staff and resources in each
of the non-London based ACTs in view of the clause in the Communications
Bill requiring Ofcom to establish an office in each of the home
nations. It had been agreed that Paul Rogers, Head of ACT Secretariat,
Oftel would write to Ofcom on the subject. The forthcoming workload
on responding to EU Market Reviews was also discussed.
· CMA Scottish Forum Broadband Review
5.2 The Secretary had attended this event which reviewed the
current situation in Scotland. There was a presentation from
Scottish Enterprise on the Alas project to link 13 business
parks in Scotland to broadband. This project has subsequently
encountered criticism and delays.
· Consumer Forum for Communications
5.3 The Secretary attended in place of Peter Wilson. The event
was primarily about the Communications Bill and an exchange
of views between organisations about those clauses that they
wished to see amended. The importance of co-ordinating and supporting
common views was stressed when it came to drafting amendments
and arranging for peers to table them. This forum intends to
meet again in the autumn and obviously sees itself as continuing
under the Ofcom regime. The Secretary suggested that the topic
of their next meeting should be a review of consumer representation
arrangements under Ofcom.
· SCC Chairmen's Group 3 March
5.4 The Secretary had attended and presented the SACOT Chairman's
apologies. The Secretary updated the forum on current SACOT
concern with regard to the Communications Bill. There had been
a review of the SCC Parliamentary Reception that had been held
at the Hub. The Secretary relayed SACOT Member's views that
while it had been disappointing that so few MSPs attended, the
opportunity to network with other consumer organisations had
proved extremely useful and a similar event, perhaps annually,
would have benefits.
· DTI Briefing on draft Statutory
Instruments 4 April
5.5 The Secretary attended this briefing which was concerned
with the current round of consultations regarding draft Statutory
Instruments which would be needed to implement the EU Directives
until such time as the Communications Bill received Royal Assent.
These basically reflected the wording in the Bill and maintained
as much of the status quo as was consistent with EU requirements.
While industry representatives had a number of detailed concerns,
the Secretary did not feel that there were significant consumer
issues given that the period of hiatus between the implementation
of the EU Directive/Statutory Instruments and the passing of
the Communication Bill to the statute book should be limited
to a matter of months at most, more likely weeks and may not
be needed at all if the Act is passed by 25 July.
· Meeting with Unitech 16 April
5.6 The Secretary had met Andrew Scott of Unitech, a company
based in Edinburgh which was responsible for issuing comparison
leaflets on telcos for Oftel. They were looking for any opportunity
to address businesses as to their capabilities and a potential
event was discussed. Unitech also currently undertake secretariat
duties for the UK Telecoms Forum.
· Secretaries' Meeting Belfast 25
5.7 This meeting had reviewed the ACT budgets that generally
reflected a 1.8 % increase over the past year. The budget was
predicated on a full 12 month period but savings would be anticipated
if ACT activity ceased on 31 December. There may, however, be
subsequent closure costs dependent on Ofcom arrangements. Paul
Rogers had received a response from Ofcom to his letter referred
to above. This basically acknowledged the valuable resources
of ACTs and stated that Ofcom would be reviewing these very
shortly (Secretary's Note - Ofcom visit to SACOT office scheduled
for 9 May). The meeting then discussed the SACOT budget. The
Chairman thought that a research project to inform Ofcom of
consumer needs in Scotland might be useful. Paul Rogers confirmed
that a national conference of ACT Members was planned for late
in the year. The Chairman suggested that it would be useful
to convene a national meeting of consumer organisations, possibly
in Glasgow. After discussion this suggestion was endorsed and
it was agreed that Alastair Robertson, Barry Stevens, Chris
Griffith, together with the Chairman and Secretary should form
a sub-group to progress the matter. The Secretary suggested
that SACOT might also wish to consider a number of local meetings
throughout Scotland to inform consumer organisations of Ofcom
arrangements and responsibilities.
6. COMPLAINTS STATISTICS
6.1 Members noted that there had been a
steady decline in numbers of complaints over the past year.
This was shown in both the Monthly and Quarterly Trends. The
appendix section on statistical significance of data was appreciated
as was the commentary on issues. Members agreed that this now
began to reveal what was happening with Scottish and UK complaints.
The Secretary was asked to express the Committee's appreciation
to Alistair Cox of Oftel. The Committee wished to receive the
statistics earlier than had been the case recently and the Secretary
undertook to advise Alistair Cox of SACOT's meeting dates to
enable this. Members also wished for a definition of 'privacy'
issues to better understand what consumers' concerns were.
7. COMMUNICATIONS BILL
7.1 The Chairman had produced a brief for
all Scottish peers, and a selection of peers from elsewhere
in the UK, which had been issued so that it would be received
just prior to the start of the House of Lords Committee Stage.
The Chairman of WACT was issuing a similar brief for Welsh peers
and NIACT was holding a parliamentary reception for peers from
Northern Ireland. The Chairs of NIACT, SACOT and WACT had succeeded
in persuading a number of peers to table amendments reflecting
the concerns of these ACTs. The three key amendments were a
requirement to consult devolved legislatures, to establish statutory
national Consumer Panels, and for Consumer Panel Members to
be appointed by the Secretary of State rather than by Ofcom.
The Chairman felt that even if these amendments were not achieved
that ACT lobbying had had a positive influence. The Committee
expressed their appreciation to the Chairman for his efforts
on behalf of SACOT and the other ACTs. The Secretary was asked
to monitor the House of Lords Committee Stage debates and to
copy relevant reports to Members.
8.1 The press notice concerning appointments
to the shadow Content Board had been circulated to Members.
Mr. Matthew MacIver had been appointed as the Scottish representative
to the UK Content Board. Paul Rogers explained that there would
be a 'job matching exercise' conducted between June and August
which would determine which Oftel employees (e.g. the SACOT
Secretariat) would be retained under Ofcom. An Ofcom event had
been held for all Oftel staff on 25 March but no invitation
had been extended to the SACOT staff.
Consultation document responses for formal endorsement
9. i SACOT Response to Oftel Consultation
Document (S29/2003): "Draft Guidelines for Customer Line
Identification Display Services and other related services over
Electronic Communications Networks"
9.1 The Committee endorsed this response.
ii SACOT Response to DTI Consultation Document
(S044/2003): "Draft Numbering Exclusion Order"
9.2 The Committee endorsed this response.
iii SACOT Response to Oftel Consultation
Document (S047/2003): "The Future Use of Legacy Directory
9.3 The Chairman expressed his thanks to
Alastair Robertson for his assistance in preparing this response,
which was endorsed by the Committee.
iv SACOT Response to DTI Consultation Document
(S043/2003): "The Scope of Universal Service Provision"
9.4 After some discussion about geographically
averaged prices the Committee endorsed this response.
Consultation documents for discussion
10. i Oftel Consultation Document (S046/2003):
"Notification of proposals for the designation of universal
service providers and the setting of conditions"
10.1 This document proposed that BT and
Kingston should be designated as universal service providers
and considered what special conditions should apply. The Committee
discussed the guidelines on functional internet access options
and agreed that the minimum speed should be 28.8 kilobits/second.
Many users would welcome the elimination of DACS lines that
would result from the adoption of this standard. The Committee
endorsed the need for consultation with community councils in
regard the withdrawal of public call boxes but the definition
of a 'site' needed to take account of accessibility issues.
The Committee also endorsed the requirement to supply local
ii DTI Consultation Document (S059/2003):
"Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications (2003/58/EC)"
10.2 The Committee noted that only 29% of
consumers were aware of the Telephone Preference Scheme and
thought this was insufficient. Alastair Robertson suggested
there was a need to rebrand and relaunch the facility. The implications
of 'cookies' concerned the Committee who felt that users should
always be informed of what cookies would be loaded and their
purpose. However, to prevent downloading of cookies may well
have an impact on free services and could, in any case, only
be applied to UK based services. The statement about subscribers
making informed decisions about being listed concerned the Committee.
Given the recent changes in Directory Enquiry Services, research
was needed to determine what consumers attitudes and concerns
were to being listed, particularly if searching for an address
on provision of a telephone number was to be a feature. It was
felt this would encourage even more subscribers to become ex-directory
than the current 40% and this would further undermine the effectiveness
of the service. The Chairman felt that the relationship between
subscriber and service provider to allow unsolicited calls needed
to be more tightly defined. He also considered the enforcement
provisions needed strengthening with 'stop now' powers. The
Chairman undertook to draft a response incorporating the Committee's
iii Oftel Consultation Document (S061/2003):
"The Granting of Electronic Communications Code by Oftel"
10.3 It was decided that SACOT would not
respond to this consultation.
iv Home Office Consultation Paper (S062/2003):
"Access to Communications Data - Respecting Privacy and
Protecting the Public from Crime"
10.4 It was agreed that key questions were
'who gives approval?'; 'what criteria would be applied?'; and
' what public accountability would there be?'. Scrutiny of access
was required together with a system of approval before access
was granted. The Chairman felt that leaving scrutiny to judicial
review was too lax while loading the police with additional
burdens was not realistic. In the circumstances, he favoured
a third party, the Information Commissioner, being tasked to
issue approvals in advance of access. The Chairman would respond
v Home Office Consultation Paper (S063/2003):
"On a Code of Practice for Voluntary Retention of Communications
10.5 The Committee was generally content
with the conclusions of this consultation but was concerned
that the requirements of national security could result in a
loophole. The Chairman would respond accordingly.
vi Oftel Consultation Document (S064/2003):
"Corporate Numbering: a new option for businesses"
10.6 Oftel proposed another group of digits
with non-geographic significance. The result would be that some
codes would indicate tariffs, some services, some would be corporate
while the others had geographic significance. The Committee
was concerned that the general public would become increasingly
confused. The Secretary mentioned that an Oftel representative
was keen to address a forum of business representatives if SACOT
could arrange a meeting. He was in the process of trying to
arrange such a meeting with the Scottish Forum of the Communication
Managers' Association. It was agreed that Committee Members
would this helpful and requested the Secretary to proceed to
plan for a meeting in June.
vii Oftel Consultation Document (S065/2003):
"Consultation on the Intelligent Network (IN) Charge for
DLE and ST FRIACO"
10.7 It was decided that SACOT would not
respond to this consultation.
viii Oftel Consultation Document (S066/2003):
"Reviews of Dispute Procedure Schemes"
10.8 The Chairman declared an interest as
a Council Member of the Telecom Ombudsman Scheme (Otelo). However,
he felt that consumers would generally support the requirement
to make accessible approved dispute resolution arrangements.
Barry Stevens was worried by the lack of definition of 'promptly'
in regard to responding to a dispute but this was for EU Member
states to define. SACOT and Otelo experience had shown that
responsibility for service problems was not necessarily straightforward
to determine. Barry Stevens emphasised that consumers needed
to be kept informed as to the progress being made with investigations
of their complaints. He was also concerned by the definition
of large businesses as having more than ten employees or part-time
staff or volunteers. Unless this was equated to Full Time Equivalent
staff many very small enterprises would be included. The Chairman
undertook to draft a response incorporating the Committee's
ix Oftel Consultation Document (S070/2003):
"Assessing Potential Consumer Savings - A consultation
by the DG Oftel on a methodology for measuring consumer savings
in telecoms services"
10.9 The Committee had found this consultation
interesting and noted that while the cost of switching service
providers had been included the investigation costs and skills
required had not been considered. Mark Hagger noted that while
a comparison study had been carried out on mobiles this had
been too complicated to replicate for fixed line services. This
was precisely the difficulty faced by consumers. The conclusion
should therefore have been not to forego an analysis but to
consider further how this could be achieved. There was a huge
potential saving to consumers in switching suppliers but this
did not feature strongly enough in the conclusions. The Committee
considered the conclusions appeared somewhat complacent and
were hardly borne out by the argumentation presented in the
preceding pages. The Chairman undertook to draft a response
incorporating the Committee's views.
11. ANY OTHER BUSINESS
11.1 Mark Hagger requested that the Committee
receive regular updates on the progress of 'trigger level' for
BT to enable exchanges for Broadband services. The Secretary
was asked to request the data from BT.
11.2 Barry Stevens requested that the Committee
receive information regarding broadband developments from Highlands
& Islands Enterprise, as he understood current initiatives
could be extended to the Orkneys and Shetlands if successful.
11.3 The Secretary advised Members that
a supply of SACOT Annual Reports was available for them to uplift.
12. DATE OF NEXT MEETING
12.1 Thursday 26 June at 10.30 a.m. at 28
Thistle Street, Edinburgh
13. EU BRIEFING
13.1 Neil Buckley, Oftel, then gave a presentation
on the implications of the current round of EU Market Review
consultations for ACT Members. This covered the requirement
for the reviews, what they covered, what stage had been reached
and what was to happen next. The reviews were an EU requirement
to meet the Framework Directive that was designed to promote
competition, develop the internal market and promote the interests
of EU citizens. Markets had to be defined and assessed to determine
whether any participant had Significant Market Power (SMP).
If there was, what was the remedy to this and if not, then remove
regulation thereby promoting competition. Both services and
types of market would be covered and 10 weeks were available
to respond to each consultation. Currently, UK market definitions
were broadly in line with those of the EU but some discussion
was needed; the extent of competition/dominance had been identified
together with remedies where appropriate.
13.2 As far as the wholesale access, call
origination and transit market was concerned BT and Kingston
had been found to be dominant in their respective areas and
the remedies were equivalent to the current interconnection
regime. As for unmetered internet termination, BT no longer
has SMP whereas Kingston had in its area. In regard to termination
on fixed networks each operator had SMP in relation to its customers.
Each of some 250 wholesale international routes was effectively
a market and BT was found to have SMP in 121 and Cable &
Wireless in 4. 22 Retail markets had been defined in which BT
and Kingston were dominant therefore price controls were to
remain but with greater flexibility for pricing businesses.
Also more flexibility was proposed for business bundling. Oftel
perceived the implications for consumers of their proposals
as leading to wider choice of service providers in fixed line
services, that price controls would be retained and only relaxed
if retail competition improved. Competition appeared to be working
as regards to International Direct Dialling and in the narrowband
internet access market. In leased lines it was clear that BT
has SMP in 'terminating' segments while there was more competition
on some wholesale trunk routes than others.
13.3 Further Market Review consultations
on mobile call termination and wholesale broadband access (ADSL)
would be issued shortly.
13.4 Neil Buckley suggested that SACOT should
consider which markets were significantly different in Scotland
compared with the rest of the UK. The Chairman pointed out that
SACOT had suggested to Oftel that market reviews needed to take
more account of the 'demand side' and less on the 'supply side'
to give a better consumer perspective. Also EU arrangements
allowed for sub-national reviews where appropriate and SACOT
had argued that this was more than justified for retail fixed
access in Scotland. No response had been forthcoming from Oftel
to these suggestions. Neil Buckley undertook to refer the matter
13.5 The Chairman thanked Neil Buckley for
his presentation that had served to focus the Committee's attention
on the aspects they needed to respond to.
Consultation documents for discussion (contd.)
14. i Oftel Consultation Document (S054/2003):
"Review of the Fixed Geographic Call Termination Markets"
ii Oftel Consultation Document (S055/2003):
"Review of the Wholesale International Services Markets
and related remedies"
iii Oftel Consultation Document (S056/2003):
"Review of Fixed Narrowband Retail Markets "
iv Oftel Consultation Document (S057/2003):
"Review of the Wholesale Unmetered Narrowband Internet
v Oftel Consultation Document (S058/2003):
"Review of the Fixed Narrowband Wholesale Exchange Line,
Call origination, Conveyance and Transit Markets"
14.1 The Chairman felt that the presentation
and discussions had provided enough material for him to formulate
draft responses that would be circulated to Members for comment.
Documents to Note
15. i An internal guide for Oftel staff:
"Supporting consumer representatives in regulatory and
co-regulatory initiatives" - March 2003.
15.1 The Chairman wished to record the Committee's
appreciation of this valuable statement.
ii Oftel Statement (S069/2003): "Oftel
Management Plan 2003-04"
15.2 The Chairman highlighted that SACOT
views had been recorded.
iii DTI Response to the Consultation on
Designating Bodies to make Super Complaints"
15.3 The Chairman had written to enquire
whether public bodies such as SACOT would be included in the
definition of bodies entitled to raise a super complaint.