Own-initiative monitoring and enforcement programme into compliance with requirement to publicise details of services offered to end-users with disabilities.

09 August 2016

Complainant: Ofcom own-initiative monitoring and enforcement programme
Investigation against: Communications Providers (CPs) offering fixed line telephony, mobile and broadband services to consumers.
Case opened: 12 August 2015
Issue: Difficulties experienced by consumers with disabilities in finding information about communication services made available to them by CPs.
Relevant instrument: General Condition 15.10

Update note: 9 August 2016

Ofcom has completed its monitoring and enforcement programme into GC15.10. Under the programme we assessed the steps that Communications Providers (CPs) are taking to ensure that the special measures available to disabled customers are widely publicised.

Our assessment found that compliance was mixed and there was scope for CPs to make improvements. We note that some CPs have made changes since we opened the programme.

To further improve compliance, we have today published a guide that sets out the reasonable steps we expect CPs to take to meet their obligations under GC15.10. This guide also includes examples of good practice identified from certain CPs’ activities in this area and our discussions with representative consumer groups.

Ofcom may take account of the reasonable steps in the guide when assessing whether a CP is meeting its obligations under GC15.10 in future. It remains open for CPs to consider taking other reasonable steps which would fit better with their own systems/processes but achieve the same effect.

We expect all CPs to review their practices against the guide and take action to make any further improvements, where relevant, by the end of 2016.

Given the improvements some CPs have made to date, and today’s publication of the guide to provide greater clarity about what is expected of CPs, we have decided to close our formal programme. However, ensuring that disabled people are readily able to find out about the services available to them remains a priority for Ofcom. 

Therefore, where we identify suspected non-compliance with the rules, we will not hesitate to consider further action, including opening individual investigations, where appropriate. Any such decisions would be published on the Competition and Consumer Enforcement Bulletin.

Update note: 11 February 2016

Ofcom has decided to extend this programme for a further six months. We are currently considering the information we have gathered to date. If any formal enforcement action is taken as a result of the work undertaken in this programme, we will publish separate bulletin entries as appropriate.

End of update note

Ofcom has commenced a monitoring and enforcement programme to assess the steps that CPs are taking to ensure that the services which they provide to users with disabilities, as required under GC15.1 to 15.9, are widely publicised. This programme will also take into consideration the need for CPs to disseminate information in appropriate formats through appropriate channels for those users.

Ofcom has conducted a mystery shopping exercise (see related item), the results of which suggest that there are respects in which the experience of consumers with disabilities may be disappointing. Results suggest that disabled consumers may not consistently be getting the information they need via in-store, online or telephone interactions in order to  find out about the services that are available to them. We consider this gives rise to a serious concern that there is a risk of significant consumer harm within the UK communications market.

We are opening a six-month monitoring and enforcement programme, covering the provision of information in respect of these services. We will work to gather information from the CPs to better understand their practices in this area and secure any improvements as may be required. We will provide updates on this work over the coming months.

Within this programme, 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 gather evidence under this programme and take enforcement action where we have reasonable grounds for believing that a CP is in breach of GC15.

Case Leader: Carmen To (email: carmen.to@ofcom.org.uk )
Case Reference: CW/01164/08/15