Own-initiative monitoring and enforcement programme into GC10 – Transparency and Publication of Information

08 January 2016

Complainant: Ofcom own-initiative monitoring and enforcement programme
Investigation against: Communications Providers (CPs) offering fixed line telephony and mobile services to business consumers.
Case opened: 10 July 2015
Case closed: 8 January 2016
Issue: Compliance with the requirements of General Condition 10, requiring CPs to publish clear and up to date information on applicable prices and tariffs, and on their standard terms and conditions, in respect of access to and use of publicly available telephone services by end-users.
Relevant instrument: General Condition 10 of the General Conditions of Entitlement ("GC10”)

Ofcom has completed its monitoring and enforcement programme into GC10 to assess the transparency and publication of information by CPs that serve business consumers in the communications market.  During the programme we assessed compliance among CPs serving business customers on standard contractual terms with respect to the availability of information about their relevant standard products and services. As a result of this assessment we wrote to a number of CPs for whom we had not been able to find all of the information required under GC10 on the products and services pages of their websites.  We also reminded all CPs and resellers about the GC10 requirements. Having considered the CPs’ responses and the information they now provide to businesses, we do not propose to take further action for the time being.

Compliance with GC10 is still an important area of Consumer Protection for Ofcom.   Consumers, including businesses, need to be able to easily access accurate information regarding Communications Providers’ prices and contract terms in order to be able to make informed purchasing decisions. We will therefore monitor complaints and other information sources and if we see an increase in complaints about the transparency and publication of information we will consider further action, including enforcement, where necessary. Any such decisions will be announced via the Competition and Consumer Enforcement Bulletin (CCEB).

Update note – 23 September 2015

Ofcom has carried out a compliance enquiry as part of its monitoring and enforcement programme into GC10. This was undertaken to assess compliance among CPs serving business customers on standard contractual terms with respect to the availability of information about their relevant standard products and services.

As a result of this assessment we wrote to a number of CPs for whom we had not been able to find all of the information required under GC10 on the products and services pages of their websites. Having considered their responses we are satisfied that the relevant information is being provided, or that it has now been made available. As a result, this compliance enquiry has concluded.

In light of this exercise, we have taken the opportunity to remind all CPs and resellers about the GC10 requirements.

A copy of our open letter to industry, which applies to all electronic communications providers offering services to end-users through a Publicly Available Telephone Service ("PATS”), can be found in related items.

Through this monitoring and enforcement programme, Ofcom will continue to monitor compliance with the requirement under GC10 for CPs to publish accurate information about their relevant standard products and services. We may initiate separate investigations of named providers. Where we do so, these will be announced via our Competition and Consumer Enforcement Bulletin and an update will be added to this Bulletin entry.

End of update note

Ofcom has commenced a monitoring and enforcement programme under General Condition 10 of the General Conditions of Entitlement (GC10), to assess the transparency and publication of information by CPs that serve business consumers in the communications market.

This follows the publication on the 25 June 2015 of our findings relating to the provision and availability of communications services for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the UK, defined as businesses with fewer than 250 employees. Our research found that around half of SMEs found information about suppliers and tariffs difficult to compare, for example via the information provided on CP websites, and a third of SMEs are not confident in identifying new communications services which would be valuable for their businesses. Ofcom’s publication outlined our intention, among other actions, to ensure all CPs comply with GC10.

Ofcom is now launching a monitoring and enforcement programme to assess CPs' compliance with the relevant provisions of GC10 and determine whether there are any issues requiring further action, including the possibility of taking enforcement action in the event of non-compliance.

Under GC10 all CPs are required to publish clear and up to date information on prices and tariffs and on their standard terms and conditions on their websites (or in every major office for inspection by the public during office hours where no website exists). The information that must be provided includes the information listed in GC10.2 (a)-(h).

Our objectives for this monitoring and enforcement programme are:

  • To ensure CPs are complying with GC10 by publishing accurate information about their relevant standard products and services.
  • To investigate those CPs for which we find evidence to suggest non-compliance with GC10 and, where appropriate, to take action against those CPs who we find to be non-compliant.
  • To remind, and subsequently monitor, smaller CPs and resellers about their duty to comply with GC10, taking action where appropriate.

Ofcom may initiate separate investigations of named providers. Where we do so, these will be announced via our Competition and Consumer Enforcement Bulletin. Alternatively, we may move directly under this programme to take enforcement action where, for example, Ofcom has reasonable grounds for believing that a CP is contravening GC10. In that case, Ofcom will announce its action via an update to this bulletin entry.

Case Leader: Sean O'Hara (email: Sean.O'Hara@ofcom.org.uk)
Case Reference: CW/01162/07/15