Additional Charges Pre-enforcement Programme

02 April 2009

Complainant: Ofcom own-initiative
Investigation against: Communications Providers offering fixed line telephony, mobile, broadband or Pay TV services to consumers
Case opened: 12 February 2009
Case closed: 1 April 2009
Issue: Compliance with the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999
Relevant instruments: Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999
This programme was opened to monitor compliance by Communications Providers (CPs) with the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulation 1999 (the UTCCRs) in relation to Additional Charges, following Ofcoms publication (19 December 2008) of Guidance on what we consider to be the law in relation to such charges ( Guidance).

When Ofcom published its Guidance we said that we would give CPs three months (or more if justified), from the date of publication (plus two weeks to take account of the Christmas period), within which to take steps to ensure that their terms and conditions comply with the UTCCRs. We said that once the three month compliance period had expired, (I April 2009), we would consider enforcement action against those CPs who did not comply.

The pre enforcement programme was opened to allow discussions and negotiations between CPs and Ofcom. Since 12 February, we have been meeting and corresponding with CPs to assess their proposed timetables for compliance and gain an understanding of the changes that they intend to make to their terms and conditions.

The pre enforcement programme ended on 1 April 2009. Ofcom considers that it has achieved its goals under the pre enforcement programme, and has now opened an enforcement programme under which we will investigate CPs whose terms and conditions we believe do not comply with the UTCCRs. The Competition and Consumer Enforcement Bulletin entry for the enforcement programme has also been published see related item.

Text published when the case was opened

Ofcom has launched a pre-enforcement programme to monitor compliance by Communications Providers with the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 (the UTCCRs) in relation to Additional Charges (see below) and, if necessary, to take action to enforce those regulations.

On 19 December 2008, after public consultation, Ofcom published its final statement in its Review of Additional Charges in contracts for communications services (including non direct debit and early termination charges). That statement included our Guidance on what we consider to be the law under the UTCCRs in relation to such charges (Guidance).

In our statement we said we would give Communications Providers three months from the date of publication (plus two weeks to take account of the Christmas period) within which to take steps to ensure that their terms and conditions comply with the UTCCRs (as set out in our view in the Guidance), after which we will consider enforcement action against those who do not comply. We also committed to write to those suppliers who, in response to the consultation, said three months was not long enough to comply, asking them to confirm whether they intend to comply, identify what they need to change about their terms, and identify those changes that would take more than three months. Responses have been received from those Communications Providers and are currently being assessed.

This pre-enforcement programme is being opened to deal with follow up cases coming out of the additional charges review, and possible failures of suppliers to comply with the UTCCRs, so that we will be ready to act quickly in cases where we consider it appropriate.

Ofcoms pre-enforcement programme will gather information from Communications Providers about additional charges terms and conditions and consider evidence of non-compliance, including numbers of complaints received by Ofcom. However, as now, Ofcom will not investigate individual consumers complaints.

Ofcom may initiate separate investigations of named providers which will be announced via Ofcoms Competition and Consumer Enforcement Bulletin or may move directly under this programme to take action where, for example, Ofcom believes a Communications Provider is contravening the UTCCRs. In that case, Ofcom will announce its action via an update to this Bulletin entry.

Case Leader: Anushka Radhakissoon email:anushka.radhakissoon@ofcom.org.uk)
Case Reference: CW/01010/02/09