Organisations we work with

08 July 2010

Ofcom has joined together with the UK's other economic regulators to form the UK Regulators Network (UKRN).

The aim of the UKRN is to improve collaboration across regulated sectors, allowing members to work closer together on issues of cross-sectoral significance, while maintaining their independent status.

The UKRN provides the structure for regulators to deliver unique policy projects, which combine their strengths and assist them in providing benefit to stakeholders, including consumers and investors.

The varied nature of the sectors that the member organisations regulate is recognised and the work the UKRN has done to date has identified specific areas where all the regulators can deliver better outcomes together.

Its work programme for 2016/17 consists of three workstreams:

  • Engagement, which is aimed to enhance how the network engages with stakeholders;
  • People and Resources , looking how the member organisations can utilise joint resources more efficiently;
  • Policy, to share expertise and strengthen the quality of the policy work that is delivered.

The UKRN comprises the following organisations:

NHS Improvement, the sector regulator for health, participates in the network and its projects as appropriate. The Water Industry Commission for Scotland (WICS) and the The Legal Services Board (LSB) are contributing members which generally participate as observers.


Publication - UKRN advice for vulnerable consumers seeking support services

The UK Regulators Network has published new advice on the extra help available to older, ill, or disabled people when using services such as gas, electricity, water, phones and public transport.

Publication - UKRN report on Price Comparison Websites

This report covers the role of PCWs, understanding consumer expectations and how PCWs are regulated.

Publication - UKRN launches cross sector investor guide

A new guide launched today by the UKRN will support current and future investment in the UK’s regulated infrastructure sectors.

Publication - UKRN Statement on consumer engagement and switching

The UK Regulators Network (UKRN) has published a report setting out its findings on the key barriers that make it difficult for consumers to engage, assess and/or act in regulated markets.

Publication - Cross sector infrastructure interactions: next steps

The UK Regulators Network has published a document reviewing evidence and outlining next steps on infrastructure interactions.

Publication - UKRN Report on Regulating for Quality of Service

The UK Regulators Network (UKRN) has published a report which sets out current practices for regulating for quality in telecommunications, rail, energy and water.

Consumer Working Group

Three discussion papers produced by contributors of the Consumer Working Group.

The Consumer Forum for Communications (CFC) is an informal forum hosted by Ofcom, for consumer representatives to share information and views with each other, and with people who formulate and implement communications policies that affect consumers. The goal is to help decision-makers to be as well-informed as possible about consumers' preferences and priorities.

Function and Role

The Consumer Forum for Communications (CFC) is an informal forum hosted by Ofcom, for consumer representatives to share information and views with each other, and with people who formulate and implement communications policies that affect consumers. The goal is to help decision-makers to be as well-informed as possible about consumers preferences and priorities.

During its 10-year life, CFC has had various changes in management and focus. Since 2008, Ofcom's Consumer Affairs team has taken over primary responsibility for the Forum from the Communications Consumer Panel, and appointed an independent Chair, while itself providing the secretariat and other necessary support.

The Forum holds quarterly meetings at Ofcom, which are open to all members and also attended by representatives of the Communications Consumer Panel. Discussions can also continue between meetings. New members are welcome as are suggestions for new ways of working and new topics to explore.

Meetings in 2017

  • 15 March
  • 13 June
  • 14 September
  • 7 December

Participants

Action on Hearing Loss

www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk

Age UK

www.ageuk.org.uk

BCS  - The Chartered Institute for IT

www.bcs.org.uk

Carnegie UK Trust

www.carnegieuktrust.org.uk

Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution

www.cedr.com

Chartered Trading Standards Institute

www.tradingstandards.uk

Citizens Advice

www.citizensadvice.org.uk

Communications Consumer Panel

www.communicationsconsumerpanel.org.uk

Countryside Alliance

www.countryside-alliance.org

Communications Workers Union

www.cwu.org

Digital Policy Alliance

www.dpalliance.org.uk

Essential Services Access Network

www.esan.org.uk

Fair Telecoms Campaign

www.fairtelecoms.org.uk/

Hearing Link

www.hearinglink.org

Helplines Partnership

http://www.helplines.org/

Mediawatch

www.mediawatchuk.org

Money Advice Trust

www.moneyadvicetrust.org/

National Association of Deafened People

www.nadp.org.uk

National Consumer Federation

www.ncf.info

Ombudsman Services: Communications

www.ombudsman-services.org

PhonepayPlus

www.phonepayplus.org.uk

Privacy International

www.privacyinternational.org

Prospect

www.prospect.org.uk

Royal National Institute of Blind People

www.rnib.org.uk

Sense

www.sense.org.uk

Signature

www.signature.org.uk

Stepchange

www.stepchange.org

Good Things Foundation

www.goodthingsfoundation.org

Voice of the Listener and Viewer

www.vlv.org.uk

Wavelength

www.wavelength.org.uk

Which?

www.which.co.uk

Contact Details

Chair of the Consumer Forum: Roger Darlington: rogerdarlington@dsl.pipex.com

Consumer Forum secretariat: cfc.secretariat@ofcom.org.uk

Members of the Consumer Forum can access our discussion site http://ofcomconsumerforum.groupsite.com

EPRA was set up in 1995 in response to the need for increased co-operation between European regulatory authorities. With its 20 years of experience and a robust network of working-level contacts, EPRA is the oldest and largest network of broadcasting regulators and is an ideal setting for the exchange of information, cases and best practices between broadcasting regulators in Europe.

Background

The Office of Communications ("Ofcom") and the Information Commissioner's Office ("ICO") agree that it would be helpful to adopt a Letter of Understanding ("Letter") to set out a basis for future collaboration between Ofcom and ICO in areas where we may share a common enforcement responsibility. The purpose of this Letter is to enable both organisations to use our resources most effectively, strengthen mutual cooperation and adopt recognised good regulatory practice. At present, the areas where we share enforcement responsibility are primarily those covered by the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 (the "Regulations"), which include the use of automated calling systems, the transmission of recorded messages that contain direct marketing material, and compliance with the Telephone Preference Service and other similar services(-1-). The commitments in this Letter are not intended to be binding, but serve to signal those actions we intend to take to improve cooperation between us. Ofcom and ICO acknowledge that both organisations have statutory duties to disclose, and not to disclose, information under certain circumstances (including under the Data Protection Act 1998) and that if there is a conflict between those obligations and commitments made in this Letter, the agency shall comply with its statutory obligations.

Enforcement powers

Ofcom and ICO have discrete and concurrent powers to enforce in these areas:

  • ICO has primary responsibility for enforcing the Regulations using the discrete powers conferred on it under Part V and Schedules 6 and 9 of the Data Protection Act 1998.
  • Additionally, Ofcom and ICO share concurrent powers as designated enforcers of the Regulations under Part 8 of the Enterprise Act 2002(-2-).
  • Ofcom in turn has discrete enforcement powers in relation to persistent misuse of an electronic communications network or service under sections 128 to 130 of the Communications Act 2003. Ofcom can take action under these provisions where Ofcom has reasonable grounds for believing that a person has persistently misused an electronic communications network or service in any way that causes, or is likely to cause, unnecessary annoyance, inconvenience or anxiety to consumers.

Powers under the Enterprise Act allow enforcement action to be exercised retrospectively, to prevent the repetition of the non-compliant behaviour after it has ceased, although these powers may only be exercised through the courts. Ofcom's powers in relation to persistent misuse enable Ofcom to take action to bring persistent misuse to an end, remedy the consequences of persistent misuse and to impose a financial penalty on the persistent misuser, up to a maximum set by the Secretary of State (currently £50,000).

Principles informing which regulator takes action

Ofcom and ICO will decide which organisation is best placed to investigate issues of suspected non-compliance applying the following non-exhaustive principles:

  • Efficiency: Enforcement needs to be quick and effective and should send out a signal that we consider certain behaviour to be unacceptable;
  • Cooperation: We need to work together closely and act in a joined-up way, to ensure that stakeholders have sufficient clarity as to our respective roles in this area;
  • Proportionality: Enforcement needs to be proportionate to the risk.
  • Expertise: There are areas where Ofcom or ICO will have specialist experience and might generally be expected to take the lead. For example, ICO may lead if issues of privacy are critical to an investigation, and Ofcom may lead if an investigation would benefit from technical knowledge of the communications sector;
  • Clarity: In deciding whether Ofcom or ICO is best placed to investigate, we will consider whether the issue raises a particularly novel question (for example, the meaning of a definition in the Regulations or the need to clarify whether a particular practice is permissible or not) which could have bearing on the legal instrument adopted; and
  • Resources: In deciding whether it is appropriate for Ofcom or ICO to investigate, we will take into account the resources available to our respective organisations at any particular time.

Publicity

Bearing in mind the importance of transparency in decision-making:

  • Ofcom and ICO will consult each other when deciding whether to make public statements regarding the opening or conduct of an investigation (other than statements made under existing procedures (for example, through Ofcom's Competition Bulletin).
  • Ofcom and ICO will publish this Letter on their websites.

Information-sharing and taking enforcement decisions

Given that effective enforcement benefits from effective information-sharing:

  • Ofcom and ICO agree to provide each other with quarterly updates about current enforcement investigations and to meet at quarterly intervals to discuss those updates and enforcement activity in general. In so doing, Ofcom and ICO will seek to keep each other informed about suspected non-compliant behaviour that is causing concern, the rationale for taking or not taking enforcement action in a particular case and the progress of enforcement actions that have been undertaken. The relevant points of contact are the Director of Investigations at Ofcom and the Head of the Regulatory Action Division at ICO; and
  • If Ofcom or ICO is considering investigating suspected non-compliance which could potentially be investigated by either the Ofcom or ICO, we will inform the other body and reach a decision on who is best placed to investigate within a period of 15 days of notification.

Review

Ofcom and ICO intend to review the arrangements set out in this Letter at appropriate intervals, with a view to improving cooperation and identifying further areas where coordinated action could further the interests of UK citizens and consumers.

Footnotes

1.- The Telephone Preference Service ("TPS") enables consumers to nominate that they do not wish to receive unsolicited marketing calls. For details on the TPS and other similar services, see www.tpsonline.org.uk. 
2.- A "designated enforcer" is a person who has been so designated by the Secretary of State under section 213 of the Enterprise Act.

Regulatory background

1. The BBC Trust (“Trust”) regulates the whole of the BBC’s output. Also under the terms of the Charter 2006, the Agreement 2006 and the Communications Act 2003 (“the Act”), some content broadcast on BBC’s UK Public Broadcasting services is regulated not only by the Trust but also by the Office of Communications (“Ofcom”). In respect of such content, both organisations have overlapping regulatory jurisdiction.

2. As set out in Section 2 (Areas of Ofcom/Trust engagement) of the Memorandum of Understanding 2007 (“MoU”) and clause 46 of the Agreement (Regulatory Obligations on the UK Public Services – Programme Code Standards), in providing UK Public Broadcasting Services the BBC is required to observe certain programme standards set by Ofcom to secure some of the objectives listed in section 319 of the Act, namely that:

  • persons under eighteen are protected;
  • material likely to encourage or to incite the commission of crime or to lead to disorder is excluded;
  • that the proper degree of responsibility is exercised with respect to the content of religious programmes;
  • generally accepted standards are applied so as to provide adequate protection for members of the public from the inclusion in services of offensive and harmful material; and
  • there is no use of techniques which exploit the possibility of conveying a message to viewers or listeners, or of otherwise influencing their minds, without their being aware, or fully aware, of what has occurred;

3. Under section 198 (1) and (2)(a) of the Act it shall be the function of Ofcom to the extent that provision for them to do so is given in the BBC Charter and Agreement, to regulate the provision of the BBC’s services and the carrying on by the BBC of other activities for purposes connected with the provision of those services. Under Section 319(2)(f) of the Act, Ofcom has a duty to set standards to secure that generally accepted standards are applied to the content of television and radio services so as to provide adequate protection for members of the public from the inclusion in such services of offensive and harmful material. Ofcom regulates for both actual and potential harm and offence.

4. Under section 46(2)(b) of the Agreement, however, the BBC is required to observe that standard (and the other standards set by Ofcom) only to the extent that it does not concern the accuracy or impartiality of the content of any BBC programme. This reflects the Trust‘s exclusive jurisdiction to ensure the accuracy or impartiality of the BBC’s programme content.

Jurisdiction and addition to the MoU

5. No difficulty arises when a service/programme gives rise to an issue of accuracy or impartiality alone: the Trust has sole jurisdiction. But sometimes a single service/programme gives rise to an issue both of offence and/or harm, and accuracy.

6. In such a situation, Ofcom and the Trust have agreed that the following approach will apply: both organisations have jurisdiction only if the fundamental issue satisfies three conditions:

  • It is not an issue arising from News/news headlines or Current Affairs content as defined in the Memorandum of Understanding; and
  • It arises from deceptive or misleading content; and
  • It arises from (a) an explicit on-air invitation to the audience to participate in a voteor competition and harm or offence to members of the public is, or is likely to be, caused or (b) an on-air invitation to the audience/members of the public to act in a manner likely to result in material harm and/or offence (for example, actions likely to result in detrimental life changing consequences such as injury to health or financial well being).

Otherwise, the BBC Trust has sole jurisdiction over issues concerning accuracy or impartiality (including issues arising from deceptive or misleading content) in all the BBC’s services/programmes.

Resolution of jurisdictional disputes

7. Should there be a difference as to whether the conditions in 6 are fulfilled representatives of Ofcom and the Trust will consider and discuss the application of the approach set out above, in the light of the content of the particular service/programme in issue, with a view to reaching prompt agreement.

8. If prompt agreement proves impossible, representatives of both organisations will remain willing and available to continue their dialogue with a view to reaching agreement within a reasonable time.

9. If no agreement can be reached within a reasonable time, the dispute will be referred to more senior designated representatives according to the agreed procedure for resolution set out in Section 3 of the Memorandum (How Ofcom and the Trust will work together: Reconciliation of disputes – page 9).

BBC Trust 16 July 2008
Ofcom Board 15 July 2008

Footnotes:

1.- Vote does not include opinion polls, that is schemes in which viewers are asked to express a point of view by choosing a preference on a topic but where the outcome is confined to gauging a balance of opinion.

Addition to the Memorandum of Understanding between Ofcom and the BBC Trust to deal with regulatory jurisdiction PDF, 61.2 KB

1.Regulatory background

Under the terms of the BBC’s Framework Agreement (“the Agreement”)[1] with the Secretary of State, the Trust may from time to time need to undertake assessments (“significance tests”) of certain of the BBC Executive’s proposals in order to determine when the Public Value Test (“PVT”) must be applied.

In July 2011 the Trust made a commitment to expand its relationship with Ofcom to take full advantage of Ofcom’s understanding of the wider communications sector and, in particular, to invite Ofcom to provide its view of the ‘impact on others’[2] (i.e. such as providers or potential providers of alternative products and services) of a proposal to inform the Trust’s decision in respect of its significance test, and in particular, the Trust’s view of the potential impact on others.

This Addition to the Memorandum of Understanding sets out the circumstances in which the Trust will invite input from Ofcom.

Clause 25 of the Agreement requires the Trust to apply a PVT before approving any significant change to the BBC’s UK Public Services, which can include introducing a new service or discontinuing a service. The Trust has indicated that it intends to adopt a similar approach in the case of ‘non-service’ proposals from the BBC Executive (see Clause 22 of the Agreement).[3]

Whether the Trust considers that a proposal relates to a service or a non-service it will follow the same process.To determine whether or not a proposal would amount to a significant change, the Trust must first assess the proposal, having regard to four considerations set out in clause 25 of the Agreement: impact (on users and others), financial implications, novelty and duration. In some cases the Trust must apply a presumption that a PVT will be conducted.[4] The Trust regards the assessment of ‘impact on others’ as an important activity in discharging its Charter duty to have regard to the competitive impact of the BBC’s activities on the wider market.

2. Conduct of significance tests

The BBC Executive is responsible for notifying the Trust of any proposals which may be significant and, when it does so, will usually supply the Trust with its own assessment of “significance”.  Notwithstanding this, the Trust also has the ability to choose to conduct its own significance tests.

Whenever the Trust decides that it should conduct a significance test, it will consult Ofcom. Ofcom will provide input on the impact on others of the BBC’s proposal to inform the Trust’s decision in respect of its significance test, and in particular, the Trust’s view of the potential impact on others.

Ofcom’s input will form part of the Trust’s overall significance test, and the Trust will therefore publish this input alongside its decision.

The final decision on whether a proposal is significant will continue to be that of the Trust alone.

Ofcom will normally provide advice four weeks after being instructed by the Trust, unless agreed otherwise.

Where Ofcom believes there may be a conflict of interest with its wider regulatory functions in carrying out any work for the Trust, Ofcom may decline to provide input to a significance test.

The Trust will reimburse Ofcom for its costs in providing the inputs as set out in this Addition.

The terms (including terms as to reimbursement) and operational arrangements for implementing this Addition will be agreed in writing between the parties.

BBC Trust 17 November 2011

Ofcom Board 22 November 2011


[1] See BBC Trust

[2] The BBC Trust will continue to assess the impact of the proposal on users

[3] Clause 22 of the Agreement requires the Trust to apply to non-services the same principles as underlie the treatment of services, where relevant and in a way that is appropriate to the circumstances.

[4] See Clause 25(3) of the Agreement.

Following publication of the Postal Services Bill by the Government, this statement sets out how both Postcomm and Ofcom will carry out their respective roles before and after regulatory responsibility for the postal sector transfers to Ofcom. Postcomm and Ofcom will work together both to secure a smooth transition with minimal disruption for industry, users and staff and also to progress ongoing work to change the current regulatory framework prior to and following Royal Assent of the new Bill.

Roles of Postcomm and Ofcom

The Postal Services Commission (Postcomm) is the regulator for the postal market established under the Postal Services Act 2000. It exercises its functions in the manner which it considers is best calculated to ensure the provision of a universal postal service and, subject to this and among other duties, to further the interests of users of postal services, wherever appropriate by promoting effective competition between postal operators.

The Office of Communications (Ofcom) is the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries, established under the Office of Communications Act 2002, with responsibilities across television, radio, telecommunications and wireless communications services. Ofcom has a duty to further the interests of citizens and consumers in relation to communications matters and to further the interests of consumers in relevant markets, where appropriate by promoting competition.

Postal Services Bill

The Postal Services Bill (published today by the Government and available at Postal service reform) provides for the transfer of Postcomm's regulatory responsibility for the postal sector and its staff to Ofcom. The Bill will require Ofcom to carry out its postal services functions in a way that it considers will secure the provision of a universal postal service. In doing so, Ofcom will be required to have regard to the need for the universal postal service to be financially sustainable and efficient. In addition the Bill will replace the existing licensing regime for providers of postal services with a general authorisation system, subject to regulatory conditions imposed by Ofcom, as already applies to communications providers.

Regulatory process

In the period leading up to the transfer of regulatory responsibility for postal services, Postcomm and Ofcom have agreed to work together as far as practicable to maintain regulatory stability for both postal users and operators, with a view to providing as much confidence and certainty as possible for the future direction of regulation and to ensure a smooth transition. Ofcom will have responsibility for implementing a new regulatory framework when the Bill comes into effect. In the meantime, Postcomm remains the regulator for the postal sector and continues to be the contact for postal industry stakeholders.

Amending the price control framework for Royal Mail

Postcomm is currently undertaking a programme of work to revise the existing regulatory framework for post. Postcomm aims to conclude an interim price control for 2011/12 and has consulted on a range of proposals including measures to improve cost transparency and provide for accounting separation. Postcomm also intends to progress further work covering aspects of wholesale and retail price regulation, the access regime more generally, financial accounting of Royal Mail and the scope of the universal service. Ofcom will ensure a smooth transition of this work to deliver a new price control to take effect from spring 2012 with Ofcom taking over the process when the new Act enters into effect.

Postcomm, Ofcom and Government are confident that Postcomm's work in this area can be progressed in a way that maintains the momentum for much needed change to the regulatory framework prior to and following Royal Assent.

Governance

Nigel Stapleton, Postcomm's Chairman, will be standing down as Chairman as planned when his appointment ends in January 2011. An Interim Chair appointment will be made from within the current Postal Services Commissioners and Ofcom Board with the aim of ensuring a seamless transition between the two regulators and the two regimes.

Timetable

The Bill is subject to Parliamentary approval. Following Royal Assent the date for the transfer of regulatory responsibility for the postal sector from Postcomm to Ofcom will be set by the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Postcomm and Ofcom look forward to working together to ensure a smooth transfer of regulatory responsibility and both are confident this will result in the delivery of an effective price control which will offer regulatory certainty to all stakeholders.

Ofcom will fulfil its new regulatory responsibilities for mail when they are agreed by Parliament. Ofcom expects its work to focus initially on completing the 2012 price control and access regime for mail, and determining the scope of the regulatory conditions that will apply to Royal Mail and to other postal operators under the new general authorisation regime.

EDWARD DAVEY 
Minister for Postal Affairs

TIM BROWN 
CEO Postcomm

ED RICHARDS 
CEO Ofcom

13 October 2010

Joint statement from BIS, Postcomm and Ofcom - Postal Services Bill PDF, 72.3 KB