MINUTES OF THE 83RD MEETING HELD ON TUESDAY 18 MARCH 2003 AT 28
THISTLE STREET, EDINBURGH
Present: Jeremy Mitchell (Chairman)
Barry Stevens MBE
Peter Wilson (Consultant)
Paul Rogers (Head of ACT Secretariat, Oftel)
Jan Edwards (SACOT Assistant Secretary)
Ray Thornton (Oftel)
1. OPENING REMARKS AND APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
1.1 The Chairman opened the 83rd meeting
by expressing the sympathy of the committee for George Halford,
the SACOT Secretary, who was absent from the meeting on special
leave. He welcomed Paul Rogers who attended the meeting in the
1.2 Wendy Reynolds was absent from the meeting,
but no apologies had been received.
2. MINUTES OF THE 82ND MEETING HELD ON 14 JANUARY 2003
2.1 In relation to the minutes of the 81st
meeting, following correspondence with Oftel, it was proposed
and agreed that lines 16 - 18 of item 6.1 should be amended
to read "Of the top 10 companies subject to complaint there
was particular discussion about 02's online service and BT Openworld's
introduction of reduced access terms." Otherwise the minutes
of the 82nd meeting were approved.
3. MATTERS ARISING FROM THE 82ND MEETING
· 3.1 Project Allocation
3.1 All members confirmed that the arrangements
for Oftel Project Managers to contact them were operating satisfactorily.
4. REPORTS FROM CHAIRMAN AND MEMBERS
i. Chairman's Report
· TAP meeting 21 January
4.1 The Chairman confirmed that members had received a copy
of the minutes of the TAP meeting. The minutes referred to the
publication of the Competition Commission's inquiry on charges
for mobile phones; the Chairman advised the members that some
telcos were seeking a judicial review over the Commission's
findings whilst others were implementing the recommendations.
4.2 The Chairman advised the members that
it had been agreed at the TAP meeting that there would not be
an ACT members' conference. A suggestion had been made that
Oftel should be asked to host a conference later on in the year
to thank the members for their efforts and to brief them on
the transition to OFCOM.
4.3 The TAP minutes referred to MOUs being
negotiated by the TOS with CRS and ICTSIS; this would be discussed
later on in the meeting (see 4.5 below).
· Communications Bill
4.4 This would be discussed under agenda item 7.
· TOS Council
4.5 The Chairman reported on the 4 February and 4 March meetings
of the TOS Council. Otelo had been open for business since 1
January 2003 and was now beginning to receive enquiries and
complaints. 'Thus' was the first Scottish operator to be admitted
to the scheme. Consideration was being given to the question
of ISP membership. It was clear from the complexity of the complaints
and enquiries received that the scope of otelo should not be
restricted to telcos. MOUs were being drawn up with Oftel/CRS
· BT Meeting 18 February
4.6 A minute of the meeting together with details of exchanges
with ADSL in place and exchanges with trigger levels had been
previously circulated. The Chairman reported that an interesting
discussion on broadband had taken place. Take-up in areas covered
by exchanges was around 3% but no information was available
for exchanges where trigger levels had not been set. It was
agreed that this would be followed up with BT. There was a question
mark on the Pathfinder project and BT was in discussion with
the Scottish Executive to determine what, under EU rules, could
be delivered. Contracts had yet to be negotiated.
4.7 The Chairman reported that, during the
discussion on repair service, it became apparent to him that
BT had not until recently taken sufficient account of factors
such as the weather. This seemed an unusual omission - given
the geographical location of Scotland.
4.8 Complaints had been received by SACOT
that BT Anytime customers were being cut off after being on
line for 2 hours. BT Anytime customers should have up to 150
hours access per month, after which they are charged on a per
minute basis. BT had disclosed that many ISPs offering a broadband
service will be restricting the hours of access in future but
that should have no impact for Anytime customers. It was agreed
that further clarification should be sought.
· WACT/NIACT/SACOT meeting Belfast
4.9 A report of the meeting of the Chairmen of the WACT, NIACT
and SACOT committees on 26 February had been circulated. The
wording of an amendment to establish statutory national committees
of the Ofcom Consumer Panel was agreed and the SACOT Chairman
would contact the Consumers' Association for guidance on Parliamentary
· Consumer Rights Conference
4.10 George Halford attended in the place of the Chairman.
ii Members' Reports
· Financial Services Authority -
4.11 Alastair Robertson reported that the FSA e-commerce committee
was concerned about the risks and identification of problems
for personal information about consumers and businesses. The
problem was to find an absolutely secure way of accessing information
within technical constraints; currently it represented a burden
on businesses and consumers.
· Oftel Committee for Business
4.12 Alastair Robertson reported that CfB was liaising with
the Forum for Private Businesses (FPB) and the Federation of
Small Businesses (FSB) on the Communications Bill. FPB was currently
taking the lead and CfB will be meeting the group at the end
of the month.
· Directory Enquiries Consumer Group
4.13 Alastair Robertson reported that new DQ services were running
in parallel with the existing 192. There were a number of players
who had yet to enter the DQ market and were probably holding
off until August 2003. There was concern over the potential
for consumers to incur large bills due to the availability of
add on services - particularly those involving accessing different
mobile networks. The accuracy of data held by DQ providers remained
a concern - particularly for small businesses. Alastair Robertson
and Peter Sayers (Chairman of CfB) had been speakers at a DQ
conference last month.
4.14 Traditional DQ enquiries were going
down and call completion was on the increase. A condoc had been
issued on what messages will go out on 192/153 after August
2003 with a 21 April deadline for responses. A consultation
workshop was to take place on 11 April and it would be useful
for SACOT members to feed their views through to Alastair Robertson
before then, as well as responding to the condoc in the normal
fashion. It was agreed that the Secretariat would arrange for
distribution of the condoc to SACOT members as quickly as possible.
· Consumer Forum on Communications
4.15 George Halford had attended the meeting in Peter Wilson's
· BT Dinner, 14 January
4.16 Barry Stevens attended the event, along with representatives
from the media and charities. The dinner concluded with an hour-long
question and answer session. Barry Stevens raised his concerns
over the accuracy of BT's statistics on the take-up of broadband.
The press expressed some interest in SACOT's activities and
Barry Stevens was able to forward their enquiries to Jeremy
Mitchell, which led to an article in the Herald on Sunday and
correspondence with the Chairman of OFCOM.
· CCE/CfB Broadband Seminar
4.17 George Halford, Alastair Robertson and Kenneth Murray attended
this event. The seminar had been well attended and there was
a lively discussion over the issues raised (particularly between
two of the speakers).
· NIACT Conference, 12 March
4.18 Alastair Robertson and Kenneth Murray represented SACOT
at the event. They described the conference as a survey of NIACT's
achievements and a restatement of the case for specific consumer
representation for Northern Ireland.
5. SECRETARY'S REPORT
5.1 It was agreed that the report would
be held over until the next meeting.
6. COMPLAINTS STATISTICS
6.1 A thirteen-month complaints report (February
2002 to February 2003) had been prepared by CRS and previously
circulated to the members. A number of issues to be pursued
with CRS were identified: why complaints about ISPs had reduced
by two-thirds; more information about the definition of the
complaint category "privacy" and why there was a dramatic
increase in complaints about broadband.
7. COMMUNICATIONS BILL
7.1 A note of the meeting under PUAF auspices
on 21 January had been circulated as well as minutes of the
SACOT/WACT/NIACT Chairmen's meeting on 26 February to discuss
amendments to the Communications Bill to require statutory country
committees of the OFCOM Consumer Panel. The Chairman explained
that the latter meeting had been necessary, as the Chairman
of CCE did not support the proposal for country committees.
7.2 The latest position on amendments to
the Communications Bill was discussed. An amendment had been
passed on Clause 3(1) that placed OFCOM under an obligation
to further the interests of the community as a whole in relation
to communications matters as well as that of consumers in the
various markets. This appeared to be very good news indeed.
On the other hand the government remained opposed to the establishment
of statutory country committees, either of OFCOM itself or of
the OFCOM Consumer Panel, or to placing OFCOM under an obligation
to consult with the devolved assemblies.
7.3 The Chairman was awaiting drafting advice
from the Consumers' Association on the wording of a suggested
amendment to the Bill on country committees. Once the amendment
had been cleared the SACOT/WACT/NIACT Chairmen would pursue
the matter through the House of Lords. As to the issue of appointment
of Consumer Panel members, the Chairman was pleased to report
that, following discussions, the Consumers' Association now
supported SACOT's position that appointment should be made by
the Secretary of State.
8.1 The Chairman's letter of 13 February
to Lord Currie setting out the case for a Scottish voice within
OFCOM had previously been circulated. No substantive response
had been received as yet.
Consultation document responses for formal endorsement
9. Oftel Consultation Document (S127/2002):
"Draft Oftel Management Plan 2003-04.
DTI Consultation Document (S134/2002): "Enterprise
Act 2002 - Designating Bodies to make Super-Complaints"
DTI Consultation Document (S135/2002): "Specifying
Bodies to bring Claims for Damages on behalf of Consumers"
DTI Consultation Document (S136/2002): "Enterprise
Act 2002: Secondary Legislation to be made under Part 8 (Enforcement
of certain Consumer Legislation)"
9.1 The committee approved the responses
to the condocs.
SACOT Annual Report and Forward Plans
9.2 The committee approved its Annual Report
and Forward Plans, which would be submitted formally to the
Director General and also sent to the Secretary of State and
the First Minister.
Condocs for discussion
10. Oftel Consultation Document (S029/2003):
"Draft Guidelines for Customer Line Identification Display
Services and other Related Services over Electronic Communications
10.1 The Chairman expressed his concern
over how the guidelines will be
monitored and enforced and what status the guidelines would
have. He would be
raising these points in the response to the condoc.
11. ANY OTHER BUSINESS
11.1 Alastair Robertson reported on a draft
decree from Spain that stipulated a minimum level of wiring
for buildings for digital services. If the UK adopted a similar
approach it would be a good way of progressing the take up of
broadband and the approach should be recommended to the DG.
It was agreed that the item would be placed on the agenda of
the next meeting.
11.2 Mark Hagger had attended a cross party
meeting but no MSPs were present. The Chairman noted the possibility
of joining the group but thought it advisable to put the matter
on hold until after the elections.
12. DATE OF NEXT MEETING
12.1 Tuesday 29 April. It was also confirmed
that the meeting after that would take place on 26 June.
13. The meeting was followed by a presentation by Ray Thornton
(Oftel) on options for numbering in Scotland.