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.

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