MINUTES OF THE 77th MEETING HELD ON TUESDAY 14 MAY 2002 AT
28 THISTLE STREET, EDINBURGH
Present: Jeremy Mitchell (Chair)
Barry Stevens MBE
George Halford (Secretary)
Lisa Proffitt (Administration Support)
Colin Adamson For Item 13
1. OPENING REMARKS AND APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
- The Chair welcomed members to the 77th meeting. Colin
Adamson had been invited to present the findings of the SACOT research project (see item
13). Apologies received from Chris Griffith and Peter Wilson who were both away on
2. MINUTES OF THE 76th MEETING HELD ON
18 MARCH 2002
2.1 These were approved.
3. MATTERS ARISING FROM THE 76th
- The SACOT Annual Report had now been published. Members had received
copies and all MSPs and contacts on SACOTs distribution list had been sent a copy of
the Annual Report with individual letters from the Chair.
- 3.3 June meeting/reception
- The draft Communications Bill had now been published and the Chair
noted that WACT were to hold a briefing for Welsh MPs and peers at Westminster. The Chair
thought this approach would be more effective than a briefing for Scottish MSPs in
Edinburgh. After a short discussion, it was agreed to go ahead with the planning of a
parliamentary briefing for all Scottish MPs and appropriate peers in late June/early July.
The Chair would intend to conduct the briefing and invite the Director General of Oftel to
do likewise. The Chair would prepare an explanatory note on the draft Communications Bill
for MSPs. This would allow the June SACOT meeting to concentrate on its consideration of
- 4.10 Oftel Price Comparison Website Group
- The Secretary reported that he had received confirmation from Terry
Walker, before he left Oftel, that this group was not active and there were no immediate
plans for further meetings. It was agreed that this heading could be removed from the
standing agenda items of Members reports (Mark Hagger).
- Members had received requests from both Oftel, centrally, and SACOT
to record their interests in Oftels 2002/03 projects. The Chair asked those members
that had not yet returned their forms to SACOT to do so promptly so that the Secretary
could prepare a proposed allocation for his approval.
- 9.1 September SACOT/CfB meeting Inverness
3.5 Alastair Robertson reported that the
sub-committee consisting of himself, Kenneth Murray, Barry Stevens and the Secretary had
met that morning to progress planning for the 24th September meeting in
Inverness. The theme would be broadband development in the Highlands and Islands. A
suitable venue had been identified as had organisations that would aid with notifying
appropriate persons of the event and for helping with audio-visual support. An outline
programme had been agreed which included the Chair, Highlands & Islands Enterprise,
the Scottish Executive and BT. It was proposed to invite the local Convenor/CEO to open
the event. The Chair suggested that Mike Tedd, Chair of WACT, might be of interest to
attendees if he were to speak on broadband problems in Wales. This was agreed. To allow
sufficient times for Group sessions presentations may need to be restricted to
15-20 minutes. Alastair Robertson and the Secretary expected to visit Inverness shortly to
view the proposed venue and to meet with key personnel. The proposed arrangements were
- Monday 23rd September p.m. CfB meeting
- Tuesday 24th September 1000 Arrival/coffee
- 1030 1330 SACOT event
- 1330 Buffet lunch
- 1500 1730 SACOT Meeting
3.6 The Chair was grateful for the preparatory work
that had been done and requested that a final programme be prepared for consideration at
the June meeting.
4. REPORTS FROM CHAIR AND MEMBERS
i. Chairs Report
- Meetings of the Telecoms Ombudsman Implementation Working Group, 26
March, 30 April
- Meetings of the Telecoms Ombudsman Council, 16 April, 30 April
- The work of the Implementation Working Group had now come to its end
and had handed over to the Council. The Chair reviewed the membership of the Council but
two industry representatives were still to be appointed. Invitations to telecom companies
to participate in the scheme had been issued. Companies representing over 90% of the fixed
line market had agreed to participate but only one mobile company. A location, outside the
Greater London region, was being sought and it was planned to have the scheme operating
from 1st January 2003.
- Meetings of the Telecoms Advisory Panel (ACT Chairs), 5 March, 8 May
4.2 Minutes of the 5th March meeting had
been circulated as had the papers relating to the 8th May meeting. Items of
note were the departure of Terry Walker his successor, Paul Rogers, would be in
post in late May, and the OFCOM Consumer Panel consultancy exercise. This was going ahead
after some initial reluctance from Oftel and three consultants (one of whom was Colin
Adamson who would be addressing the Committee later) had been contracted to perform a
rapid assessment of what structure and resources the Consumer Panel would need. The
Memorandum of Understanding was to be revised and re-issued as a guidance document for ACT
Secretariats. The Chair highlighted Oftels appreciative comments about ACT input to
the finalisation of Oftels management plan.
ii. Members Reports
- Financial Services Authority - e-Commerce Committee
4.3 Alastair Robertson stated that he had made
enquiries and that this standing item on the agenda could now be deleted.
- Communications for Business (CfB)
4.4 Alastair Robertson had attended the Oftel
meeting, along with the Secretary, which considered the implications of the implementation
of EU directives from 15 July 2003. This meant a move away from specific licences to
general conditions. Specific conditions would only be applied where a company had
significant market power. There would be a review of segments of the market to determine
where this would be appropriate. Oftel were currently reviewing how to define market
segments and this would be followed by reviews, each of which would result in a
consultation document. There was a drive for harmonisation of regulatory controls across
the EU and Oftel would be participating in an EU group of regulatory representatives.
There had been concern expressed that consumer representatives also needed to liase more
effectively across the EU and be aware of the regulatory provisions in EU countries. For
example, the UK was felt to be ahead in requirements for the disabled and elderly and it
would be of concern if harmonisation were to erode the situation in the UK. Industry
representatives favoured the level playing field that would result from harmonisation and
were wary of minimum standards that could be exceeded to varying degrees in different
member states. As the Communications Bill would not receive Royal Assent before the
implementation date for the EU directives it was expected that a number of Statutory
Instruments would need to be laid to cover the interim period. These were expected to be
passed by negative resolution but there was a risk that these could be debated.
- Directory Enquiries Consumer Group
4.5 Alastair Robertson reported that the group had
now received copies of papers from the industry group. Draft consumer guides were being
considered. Service providers must supply a UK-wide service. A parallel running period was
proposed during which calls to 192 would be automatically routed to a to a random and even
selection of the new companies. This must not result in a higher cost than would have
applied to a BT 192 call. Kenneth Murray asked whether new service providers would, like
BT, allow 2 searches per call. Alastair Robertson was not sure but would follow this up.
He was able to report that it had been proposed that caller must be informed of the name
of the service provider in case of complaint. Kenneth Murray asked what was the source of
the database and Alastair Robertson said that the BT database was being provided to each
new directory enquiry service provider.
ACTION (Alastair Robertson)
- Consumer Forum on Communications
4.6 Peter Wilson was not present.
5. SECRETARY'S REPORT
- BT Customer Service Guarantee Scheme Briefing, 3 April
- The Secretary had attended this event and copied the supporting
papers from BT to Members. BT felt that the previous compensation scheme was difficult for
consumers to understand and use. Their revised scheme would allow customers affected by a
fault either to elect to have their calls automatically forwarded to an alternative fixed
line number in the home (if one was available) or to a mobile number. In the later case
the additional costs of making calls would be automatically credited to the account for
the appropriate period. If no forwarding number was available a simpler compensation
scheme would operate whereby accounts would automatically be credited with monthly rental
costs on a sliding scale for the days affected (1-3 days: 1 month; 4-6 days: 2 month; 7-9
days:3 months; 10+ days: 4 months). Actual financial losses could also be claimed. Mark
Hagger asked about the arrangements for exceptionally long periods of loss of service
he had in mind a neighbour that had lost service for 2 months and what the
arrangements would be for poor quality of service. The Chair felt that these points should
be raised by SACOT at the next meeting with BT Scotland. Alastair Robertson asked whether
BT had considered supplying temporary mobile handsets and the Secretary said they had.
There was a range of practical and financial difficulties involved although BT had not
discounted this as a future enhancement of the Guarantee Scheme.
5.2 Already covered see 4.4 above.
- SACOT Budget Report for 2001/2002
5.3 The Secretary had prepared a summary that was
tabled at the meeting. The Secretary highlighted a 4% overspend but this had been largely
due to the costs associated with the removal from Greenside Lane to Thistle Street. The
Chair noted that nearly all the research costs which initially were planned to be spread
across the two financial years on a 2/3: 1/3 split had been accommodated in 2000/01.
5.4 Lisa Proffitt reminded Members of the procedures
for claiming allowances and expenses and provided an example of the record that would be
maintained for each Member. After some discussion it was agreed that the summary could
usefully be copied to members towards the end of the Financial Year so that any unclaimed
allowances could be claimed. The Secretary reminded Members that the number of days
allowances could exceed six but only with the agreement of the Secretary who would liase
with the Chair as appropriate.
- TAP FORWARD PLAN 2002-03
6.1 This had been distributed to Members and it was
noted that it was also available on the Oftel website.
6.2 Members noted the SACOT budget provision. The
Chair highlighted the high costs for NIACT but this resulted from the retention of
complaints work. Alastair Robertson asked about how the savings resulting from the loss of
complaints work for SACOT and WACT had been applied. The Chair felt that this was
reflected in the increased resources available for research projects and that both WACT
and SACOT were holding events in 2002/03. Although Oftel had suffered a reduction in its
bid to the Treasury the allocation for ACTs had not been affected.
- COMPLAINTS STATISTICS
- The Oftel statistics had been distributed. Some amendment sheets that
had just been received were circulated at the meeting. Mark Hagger had prepared a critique
of the presentation of the data and circulated it at the meeting. He was anxious that
monthly variations in totals should be highlighted on the first sheet and that thereafter
proportions should be illustrated with the supporting numbers available for reference. The
use of very thin slices for bar charts should be avoided with their being aggregated into
an other category. The Chair observed that the use of 3-D bar charts actually
prevented interpolation of intermediate values. Use of yellow in colour versions should be
avoided as this disappeared when being photocopied in black and white. After some
discussion the Chair thanked Mark Hagger for his valuable contribution and asked that he
now expand his critique into a draft specification that could be discussed at the next
ACTION (Mark Hagger)
8.1 Members had been sent material relating to the
draft Communications Bill and each would receive a full set of the publications shortly.
The Chair had made notes on aspects of the Bill and would work this up into a commentary
that would be sent to members before the next meeting. This would enable the agenda for
the next meeting to concentrate on the Draft Communications Bill, the period for
consultation was due to end in August. The Secretary provided the Chair with a copy of the
statement made in the House of Commons when the Bill was presented. The Minister had
highlighted that representation for each of the home nations featured in the Bill in
relation to the Content Board (an internal OFCOM body) and the Consumer Panel. The
Minister had also given a commitment that OFCOM would have a presence in each home nation
although there was no statutory requirement included.
8.2 The Chair had referred earlier to the progress
made with the consultancy on Consumer Panel structure and resources (see 4.2).
Consultation document responses for formal
9. i Oftel consultation document (S/001):
"Developing a Strategic Approach to Market Information"
9.1 The Chairs response was endorsed.
ii Oftel consultation document (S/005):
"Protecting Consumers by Promoting Competition"
9.2 The Chairs response was endorsed.
iii Oftel consultation document (S/008):
"CPS All-calls Option"
9.3 The Chairs response was endorsed.
iv Oftel statement (S/009): "Effective
Competition Review; Dial Up Internet Access"
9.4 The Chairs response was endorsed.
v ICSTIS consultation document (S/011):
"Adult services: the Top Shelf Rule"
- The Chairs response was endorsed.
Consultation documents for discussion
- i Oftel Statement (S/015): "Oftel management plan 2002/03"
- Members agreed that no response was necessary and noted the
appreciation of ACT input. Allocation to projects would now be finalised.
- ANY OTHER BUSINESS
No other business was raised.
- DATES OF NEXT MEETINGS
12.1 18 June 2002 to concentrate on the Draft
Communications Bill and Mark Haggers draft Complaints Statistics specification.
12.2 The long gap between June and the next meeting
at Inverness on 24th September concerned the Chair. He appreciated that the June meeting
had originally been scheduled for July and had been brought forward to facilitate a
reception for MSPs. However, it had now been agreed to plan for a Westminster briefing in
late June/early July. Accordingly, given the volume of consultation documents expected
during this key period there may be a need for a SACOT meeting sometime in July. Members
agreed to this. (Secretarys note this might be held in London to coincide
with briefing at Westminster depending on the date and Members attendance.)
13. PRESENTATION by COLIN ADAMSON of his REPORT
to SACOT on "PERCEPTIONS OF COMPETITION AMONGST TELECOM USERS IN SCOTLAND"
13.1 Members had been provided with copies of the
draft Report and Colin Adamson presented the findings from the forums of business users
and from the questionnaire to consumers. Copies of the slides that he spoke to were
provided to Members. Members agreed that the conclusions were both interesting and
relevant and some suggestions were made for a slight restructuring of the report to
highlight the key conclusions. The Committee expressed their appreciation of the valuable
work that had been done in such a limited time scale. Once the report had been finalised
it would be published by SACOT and circulated to all interested parties.
ACTION (Colin Adamson/Secretary)