Policies and guidelines

A list of Ofcom's policies and guidelines.


Why is Impact Assessment important?

1.1 The decisions which Ofcom makes can impose significant costs on our stakeholders and it is important for us to think very carefully before adding to the burden of regulation. One of our key regulatory principles is that we have a bias against intervention. This means that a high hurdle must be overcome before we regulate. If intervention is justified, we aim to choose the least intrusive means of achieving our objectives, recognising the potential for regulation to reduce competition. These guidelines explain how Impact Assessments will be used to help us apply these principles in a transparent and justifiable way.

"The option of not intervening...should always be seriously considered. Sometimes the fact that a market is working imperfectly is used to justify taking action. But no market ever works perfectly, while the effects of...regulation and its unintended consequences, may be worse then the effects of the imperfect market" Better Regulation Task Force (September 2003)

1.2 Impact Assessments form a key part of best practice policy making, which is reflected in our statutory duty to carry them out. They provide a way of considering different options for regulation and then selecting the best option. In selecting and analysing options, the need to further the interests of citizens and consumers is of paramount importance.

1.3 Impact Assessments are also useful tools for reviewing existing regulation. They provide a framework for weighing up the costs and benefits of removing regulation, as well as analysing other options.

1.4 In identifying options, we will aim to consider a wide range of options, including not regulating. Where appropriate, we will explore more risk-based, targeted approaches to regulation and will consider whether there are alternatives to formal regulation, such as co-regulation.

1.5 In developing policy proposals, our aim will be to think widely about the possible impacts, taking account of the whole value chain and knock-on effects across the communications sector. By doing so, we will seek to minimise any unintended consequences.

1.6 To be effective, the process of doing an Impact Assessment should begin right at the start of a project, with the Impact Assessment being developed from then onwards. An Impact Assessment should therefore be a core part of the policy-making process, not a bureaucratic add-on.

1.7 In these guidelines we say we expect Impact Assessments to be carried out in relation to the great majority of our policy decisions. This is a significant commitment, but in carrying out Impact Assessments, we will be guided by the principle of proportionality. This means that a decision which is likely to have a wide-ranging impact and/or impose substantial costs on stakeholders will have a more comprehensive Impact Assessment than a decision which will have a less significant impact.

1.8 An Impact Assessment should show how a regulatory decision is designed to fulfil our statutory duties. The principal duty of Ofcom is to further the interests of citizens in relation to communications matters and to further the interests of consumers in relevant markets, where appropriate by promoting competition. What the Act requires us to do to fulfil this principal duty falls into six main areas, ranging from ensuring the optimal use of the radio spectrum to providing audiences with adequate protection against offensive and harmful material.

1.9 We are also required to keep the carrying out of our functions under review to ensure that regulation does not involve:

  • the imposition of burdens which are unnecessary; or
  • the maintenance of burdens which have become unnecessary.

1.10 The benefits for citizens and consumers are potentially largest where markets are open, new entrants can compete against incumbents, investment is encouraged and innovation flourishes. For this reason, we are committed to promoting open and competitive markets. Where appropriate, therefore, Impact Assessments need to show the extent to which the options under consideration would have an impact on competition.

1.11 Another benefit of carrying out Impact Assessments is that they provide a mechanism for considering the impact of our work on the interests of the full range of our stakeholders, including different groups of citizens and consumers. In some cases, for example, we will need to consider the impact of policy options on the interests of people living in different parts of the country or people who are elderly, disabled or on low incomes.

1.12 Our stakeholders play an important part in the Impact Assessment process as often they will be in possession of the information needed to carry out the analysis. Generally, therefore, we will seek to engage with stakeholders at an early stage.

1.13 These guidelines reflect the comments we received from stakeholders in response to the draft guidelines that we published in February 2005. The overall response to the guidelines was very positive, although many respondents made the point that we will now need to implement them effectively. We have not made wholesale changes to the guidelines following the consultation, but have made some amendments which we hope will provide greater clarity about our approach. A summary of the key points made by respondents to the consultation and an explanation of how we have addressed them can be found in Annex B. All the non-confidential responses to the consultation are on our website.

1.14 In producing these guidelines, Ofcom has had regard to other relevant guidelines, including the Cabinet Office publication, "Better Policy Making: a Guide to Regulatory Impact Assessment" (January 2003). We have also taken into account the guidance issued by the Better Regulation Task Force, which identified five principles of good regulation: proportionality, accountability, consistency, transparency and targeting. These guidelines also reflect our experience of carrying out Impact Assessments in the period since Ofcom's inception. While they set out our general approach to Impact Assessments, the wide range of decisions which Ofcom has to make means this approach will be tailored as necessary to fit the type of decision being made.

1.15 It is important to stress that the publication of these guidelines forms part of a programme of work designed to embed the process of carrying out Impact Assessments across the organisation. We will be following the approach set out in the guidelines from 1 August 2005, although the process of improving Ofcom’s Impact Assessments and thereby improving our policy decisions will continue. This will involve training for those involved in carrying out Impact Assessments and other initiatives to raise awareness and provide assistance. We will also continue to draw on best practice in the UK and elsewhere.

1.16 We have chosen to use the term 'Impact Assessment' rather than 'Regulatory Impact Assessment'. This is for two reasons. First, it better conveys the potentially broad scope of our policy proposals, which will often extend beyond introducing new regulation. The introduction of spectrum trading, for example, is a fundamental change in the way that spectrum is allocated and has the potential to lead to significant de-regulation. Secondly, 'Impact Assessment' is the term used in section 7 of the Communications Act 2003 ("the Act"), which sets out Ofcom’s legal obligation to consider the impact of its proposals and is discussed in section 4 of these guidelines.

1.17 These guidelines do not have binding legal effect. Ofcom will consider each case on its merits and will apply the guidelines where it is appropriate to do so. In the event that we decide to depart from the guidelines, we will normally set out our reasons for doing so.

1.18 If you have any comments or questions about these guidelines or Ofcom's approach to Impact Assessments more generally, please contact Tom Kiedrowski (tom.kiedrowski@ofcom.org.uk) or Marco Marini (marco.marini@ofcom.org.uk). The full document is available below

Better Policy Making - Ofcom's approach to Impact Assessment PDF, 79.2 KB

Ofcom carried out an initial carbon audit in 2007 and subsequently committed to a challenging 25% reduction in carbon emissions by 2013. Over the past few years, Ofcom has undertaken a number of initiatives to reduce emissions as part of its Footprint and Sustainability project.

Ofcom has conducted a number of subsequent audits to assess progress against this overall reduction target. An audit in 2009 confirmed a total footprint of 4,716 tonnes compared to a 5,525 tonne baseline, equating to a 15% reduction in emissions. A further audit in 2011 confirmed a total footprint of 4,367 tonnes, bringing the overall reduction to 21%.

Ofcom's latest audit in 2013 confirmed a total footprint of 3,878 tonnes. This represents a 1,647 tonne reduction compared to the baseline, equating to an overall reduction of 30% and exceeding our original reduction target. The full carbon audit can be found below. We will continue to monitor our internal KPIs in order to reduce our emissions further in subsequent years.

Note that the original carbon audit showed a baseline footprint of 6,402 tonnes, however this was retrospectively updated by the carbon auditors in 2009 to account for revised carbon methodology, changes in conversion factors to align with Defra updates and minor changes to base-year input data.

OFCOM Final report Carbon Audit 2013 PDF, 1.4 MB

How to complain to Ofcom

Please follow the guidelines below depending on the nature of your complaint.

How to complain about Ofcom

We always do our best to meet the needs of businesses, consumers, viewers and listeners.

But sometimes things can go wrong - or we can fall short of our own high standards.

If this happens we have procedures to handle your complaints.

Ofcom consultations

If you have a complaint about our consultation process, please read our guidelines on Ofcom consultations.

These include details of how to complain to our Consultation Champion.

The Consultation Champion can only investigate complaints about how Ofcom has managed a particular consultation - for example, whether we have allowed enough time for people to respond.

They cannot investigate the substance of policy proposals. If you have a concern about specific Ofcom proposals, please contact the policy team directly.

Complaint escalations

There is a two-stage process if you are not satisfied with the way your complaint has been handled, or with the response that you have been given.

In the first instance, please contact the person or team that dealt with you and discuss your concerns directly with them. They will often be in the best position to understand your situation and give you an explanation as to what has happened.

If this does not resolve your concerns, please contact the office of the Secretary to the Corporation, Steve Gettings,(corporationsecretary@ofcom.org.uk) or telephone 020 7981 3000. He will review your case and respond to you as quickly as possible.

We will treat your complaint in confidence and will investigate it carefully as quickly as possible.

Every effort will be made to send a full and clear reply within 20 working days of your complaint being received. If we cannot investigate your complaint fully within that time, we will let you know and keep you informed of progress.

Should you remain dissatisfied with the response you have been given you can raise a complaint with the Parliamentary Ombudsman via your Member of Parliament.

Corporate Responsibility (CR) is the action we take to ensure we are not only a responsible employer towards our colleagues, but that we also recognise and manage our impact on the wider environment and community.

Our CR programme brings together three key areas of activity that are embedded throughout the organisation:

  • Diversity and equality - treat all colleagues with dignity and respect in an inclusive and fair working environment. Promote equality of opportunity for all, not only within Ofcom but also the sectors we regulate.
  • Footprint and sustainability - reduce our carbon footprint, provide value for money and ensure Ofcom’s practices are environmentally sustainable.
  • Volunteering and community - engage, inspire and develop colleagues whilst proactively seeking to support our local community.

We believe that going beyond our duties under the terms of the Equality Act 2010 and embedding CR across our organisational approach fundamentally contributes to our success as a regulator. Some of the benefits include:

  • Recognising and embracing the diversity of society helps us to make better decisions for citizens and consumers; to make communications work for everyone.
  • Valuing, promoting and encouraging diversity creates a more engaged and efficient workforce.
  • Being socially and environmentally responsible reduces our operational costs and builds closer links with our local community.

We are committed to acting in a responsible manner ensuring that:

As an employer, we:

  • Treat all colleagues with the dignity and respect they are entitled to.
  • Promote equality of opportunity for all, irrespective of age, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender reassignment, marital / civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, religion / belief, or sexual orientation.
  • Consider our economic, social and environmental impacts, and encourage our colleagues to adopt responsible behaviour.
  • Inspire and develop our colleagues and ensure we are rooted within our local community.

As a public body, we:

  • Commit to eliminating unlawful discrimination.
  • Adopt socially and environmentally responsible behaviour.
  • Lead by example in promoting equality, diversity and human rights.
  • Reduce our carbon footprint and ensure we are environmentally sustainable in our practices.
  • Demonstrate our commitment to being a good corporate citizen.

As a regulator, we:

  • Fulfil our statutory objectives in an effective manner.
  • Promote diversity so we can best reflect the diversity of the community we serve.
  • Act in a balanced and measured way.
  • Have due regard for equality and human rights in carrying out our statutory functions.
  • Have due regard for the equality and human rights impact when taking strategic decisions about how to exercise our functions.

As a contracting authority we expect our suppliers of products and services (and their sub-contractors) to:

  • Share our approach to corporate responsibility and commitment to equality and diversity through their policies, principles and actions.
  • Understand and comply (or have plans for compliance) with all legislation relevant to their business (and their interactions with our organisation) covering such matters as environmental protection, discrimination, employment, minimum wage, health and safety, equality of treatment for all the diversity strands including making reasonable adjustments for disabled workers and to have policies, where appropriate, and to actively monitor performance against such policies.
  • Communicate openly and honestly with us so we can support and develop our mutual commitment to corporate responsibility.
  • Manage their suppliers of products and services responsibly.


The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 ('PIDA'/'Act') came into effect on 1 January 1999. The Act gives legal protection to employees against being dismissed or penalised by their employers as a result of disclosing information which is considered to be in the public interest. The principle of the Act is that where an individual discovers information which he or she believes to show malpractice or wrongdoing within their organisation that this information should be disclosed without fear of reprisal. This should be facilitated by a process which ensures that the person making the disclosure is afforded proper protection and that the information is acted upon quickly. The Act offers a right to redress in the event of victimisation if individuals raise concerns in the ways specified by the legislation.

Ofcom has a policy in place for its own employees and is obliged (it is a 'prescribed person') under the Act to put in place a procedure under which individuals working outside Ofcom but in the communications sector may contact Ofcom if they have concerns about possible wrongdoing at their own organisation and where they have been unable to raise or resolve those concerns internally. Ofcom is a Prescribed Person under the Act to which external disclosures can be made on matters relating to:

"(a) the provision of electronic communications networks and services and the use of the electro-magnetic spectrum; (b) broadcasting and the provision of television and radio services; (c) media ownership and control; and (d) competition in communications markets."

Ofcom is committed to good governance and has attempted, through this procedure, to create an environment in which all individuals working for organisations in the communications sector have an ability to contact Ofcom for the purpose of making a disclosure under the PIDA. Ofcom recognises that employees are often the first to realise that there may be something wrong within their organisation and therefore encourages all individuals to raise genuine concerns about malpractice (unprofessional or illegal behaviour) at the earliest practicable stage rather than wait for proof. This is known as 'whistleblowing'.

Individuals with concerns are encouraged to make a disclosure (blow the whistle) within their organisation in the first instance. Ofcom is an alternative route for individuals, who have raised a concern to their organisation and are concerned by the response, or lack of response, from their organisation or for those who feel unable to talk to anyone at their organisation for whatever reason. Individuals finding themselves in this situation should follow the Ofcom procedure below to make a disclosure to Ofcom. This procedure is not to be used by individuals seeking to make a grievance about their personal employment situation. Ofcom is particularly interested in live concerns or matters of recent history rather than past issues.

Any information received by Ofcom will be treated sensitively and Ofcom will investigate matters raised under this procedure in a responsible manner. The Act does not require Ofcom to investigate every disclosure received. The decision whether or not to investigate is based upon various criteria designed to ensure the most effective use of the resources at Ofcom's disposal in safeguarding the public interest. In addition the Act does not require Ofcom to consider or judge whether a disclosure qualifies for the protection of the Act. Ofcom's role is to consider the matters disclosed to it.

The PIDA provides an essential framework protecting individuals who blow the whistle responsibly. If you require further information on the Act please refer to the Department of Trade and Industry's Guide to the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998. This is available at their website: www.dti.gov.uk/er/individual/pidguide-pl502.htm

If you want free, confidential advice on what is protected by PIDA and how best to raise your concern, you can contact for example, the independent charity, Public Concern at Work on 020 7404 6609 www.pcaw.co.uk or, in Scotland, 0141 5507572www.scotland@pcaw.co.uk

Qualifying disclosures

Individuals can make what is known as a qualifying disclosure to Ofcom. The Act defines a "qualifying disclosure" as a disclosure, made in good faith, of information which, in the reasonable belief of the individual making the disclosure, tends to show one or more of the following has been committed, is being committed or is likely to be committed:

  • a criminal offence;
  • a breach of a legal obligation;
  • a miscarriage of justice;
  • a danger to the health and safety of any individual;
  • damage to the environment; or
  • deliberate covering up of information tending to show any of the above five matters.

Ofcom has been prescribed by the Secretary of State for the purpose of receiving disclosures about matters relating to:

"(a) the provision of electronic communications networks and services and the use of the electro-magnetic spectrum; (b) broadcasting and the provision of television and radio services; (c) media ownership and control; and (d) competition in communications markets."

Ofcom has statutory functions in relation to the communications sector and can provide authoritative advice and guidance to individuals about matters properly disclosed to it. Therefore individuals wishing to make a disclosure to Ofcom, as a prescribed person, should work in the communications sector and wish to make a related disclosure. However, it is up to an employment tribunal to decide after the event whether or not a disclosure was protected under the Act. Ofcom does not have any powers to determine whether a disclosure is protected, or to intervene in employments relations and Ofcom cannot provide legal advice.

Making a disclosure to Ofcom

The individual making a disclosure should disclose in confidence the grounds for belief in malpractice to the Secretary of the Corporation (Steve Gettings) who has been designated by Ofcom as having appropriate experience and standing to handle such disclosures. In this procedure the above-named person is described as the "Designated Officer".

If you wish to make a disclosure to Ofcom you should telephone the Designated Officer on 020 7981 3601, e-mail at steve.gettings@ofcom.org.uk or alternatively you can write to:

Steve Gettings
Secretary to the Corporation
Riverside House
2a Southwark Bridge Road
London SE1 9HA

When contacting Ofcom to make a disclosure under the PIDA, you should try and provide as much supporting information as possible. Hard evidence, if available, would be very helpful. However, the PIDA does not require you to have evidence before making a disclosure, but does say you must reasonably believe the information and any allegations in it are substantially true. You must also disclose any personal interests you have in relation to the disclosure when contacting Ofcom.

Published 03|12|15

The penalty guidelines published 3 December 2015 replace the penalty guidelines published 13 June 2011.

Statutory background

  1. Section 392 of the Communications Act 2003 (“the Act”) requires Ofcom to prepare and publish a statement containing the guidelines it proposes to follow in determining the amount of penalties imposed by Ofcom under the Act or any other enactment apart from the Competition Act 1998. This statement contains Ofcom’s penalty guidelines.
  2. By virtue of section 392(6) of the Act, Ofcom must have regard to the statement for the time being in force when setting the amount of any penalty under this Act or any other enactment (apart from the Competition Act 1998).
  3. Ofcom has powers to punish those who act unlawfully or in breach of the relevant regulatory requirements. Ofcom has updated the penalty guidelines to clarify its approach to setting penalties. In particular, to ensure that we can impose penalties at the appropriate level effectively to deter contraventions of regulatory requirements, and to explain the weight to be attributed to any precedents set by previous cases in the process of deciding an appropriate and proportionate penalty. Decisions made under the previous penalty guidelines may be relevant to Ofcom’s future decision-making. However, they are likely to become less relevant to future enforcement work over time, and Ofcom may, in light of the circumstances of each case, impose higher penalties in future cases than in previous ones to secure effective deterrence.
  4. All businesses should operate in compliance with the law, taking into account any relevant guidelines where appropriate. As such, the central objective of imposing a penalty is deterrence. The level of the penalty must be sufficient to deter the business from contravening regulatory requirements, and to deter the wider industry from doing so.
  5. In particular, the level of the penalty must be sufficiently high to have the appropriate impact on the regulated body at an organisational level. It should incentivise the management (which is ultimately responsible for the conduct and culture of the regulated body) to change the conduct of the regulated body as a whole and bring it into compliance, achieving this, where necessary, by changing the conduct at different levels within the organisation. The level of the penalty should be high enough that the management recognises that it is not more profitable for a business to break the law and pay the consequences, than it is to comply with the law in the first instance, and that it should therefore discourage bad conduct and encourage good practices and a culture of compliance across the organisation.
  6. A relevant factor in securing this objective of deterrence is the turnover of the regulated body subject to the penalty. Penalties should be set at levels which, having regard to that turnover, will have an impact on the body that deters it from misconduct in future and which provides signals to other bodies that misconduct by them would result in penalties having a similar impact. That is, it must be at a level which can also change and correct any non-compliant behaviour, or potential non-compliant behaviour, by other providers.
  7. In making this assessment, Ofcom will have regard to precedents set by previous cases where they are relevant. However, Ofcom may depart from them depending on the facts and context of each case. Our penalty decisions will therefore focus the discussion of precedents to cases we consider particularly relevant, if any.
  8. If, in making our assessment in any particular case, we consider that the level of penalties set in previous cases is not sufficient effectively to enforce against the regulatory contravention concerned, and to deter future breaches, Ofcom may set higher penalties under these revised guidelines. Regulated bodies with a large turnover, for example, may be subject to higher penalties in order for a deterrent effect to be achieved. These revised guidelines provide Ofcom with the flexibility to impose higher penalties in appropriate cases and penalties Ofcom has previously imposed should not be seen as placing upper thresholds on the amounts of penalties we may impose.
  9. This is not to say there is a direct linear relationship between the size and turnover of the regulated body and the level of the penalty. While a body with a larger turnover might face a larger penalty in absolute terms, a body with a smaller turnover may be subject to a penalty which is larger as a proportion of its turnover, for example. We will impose the penalty which is appropriate and proportionate, taking into account all the circumstances of the case in the round together with the objective of deterrence.
  10. Amongst the other relevant considerations we may take into account, Ofcom may consider the degree of harm caused by the contravention and/or any gain made by the regulated body as a result of the contravention. We may seek to quantify those amounts in appropriate cases. However, Ofcom will not necessarily do so in all cases and, even where it does, the calculation does not determine or limit the level of the penalty, which, as explained above, is to ensure that the management of the regulated body is incentivised to modify the behaviour of that body (and deter other regulated bodies accordingly). Any quantified harm/gain is only one of the factors in determining the appropriate and proportionate level of the penalty.
  11. Ofcom will consider all the circumstances of the case in the round in order to determine the appropriate and proportionate amount of any penalty. The central objective of imposing a penalty is deterrence. The amount of any penalty must be sufficient to ensure that it will act as an effective incentive to compliance, having regard to the seriousness of the infringement. Ofcom will have regard to the size and turnover of the regulated body when considering the deterrent effect of any penalty.
  12. The factors taken into account in each case will vary, depending on what is relevant. Some examples of potentially relevant factors are:
    • The seriousness and duration of the contravention;
    • The degree of harm, whether actual or potential, caused by the contravention, including any increased cost incurred by consumers or other market participants;
    • Any gain (financial or otherwise) made by the regulated body in breach (or any connected body) as a result of the contravention;
    • Whether in all the circumstances appropriate steps had been taken by the regulated body to prevent the contravention;
    • The extent to which the contravention occurred deliberately or recklessly, including the extent to which senior management knew, or ought to have known, that a contravention was occurring or would occur;
    • Whether the contravention in question continued, or timely and effective steps were taken to end it, once the regulated body became aware of it;
    • Any steps taken for remedying the consequences of the contravention;
    • Whether the regulated body in breach has a history of contraventions (repeated contraventions may lead to significantly increased penalties); and
    • The extent to which the regulated body in breach has cooperated with our investigation.
  13. When considering the degree of harm caused by the contravention and/or any gain made by the regulated body as a result of the contravention Ofcom may seek to quantify those amounts in appropriate cases but will not necessarily do so in all cases.
  14. Ofcom will have regard to any relevant precedents set by previous cases, but may depart from them depending on the facts and the context of each case. We will not, however, regard the amounts of previously imposed penalties as placing upper thresholds on the amount of any penalty.
  15. Ofcom will have regard to any representations made to us by the regulated body in breach.
  16. Ofcom will ensure that the overall amount of the penalty is appropriate and proportionate to the contravention in respect of which it is imposed, taking into account the size and turnover of the regulated body.
  17. Ofcom will ensure that the overall amount does not exceed the maximum penalty for the particular type of contravention.
  18. Ofcom will have regard to the need for transparency in applying these guidelines, particularly as regards the weighting of the factors considered.
  19. Section 392(2) of the Act provides that Ofcom may from time to time revise our statement as we think fit. Ofcom must first consult the Secretary of State and other such persons as we consider appropriate.
  20. This statement will be reviewed in the light of experience in applying it over time.
  21. In these guidelines, ‘regulated body’ means any person or body subject to regulation by Ofcom under any enactment apart from the Competition Act 1998.

Penalty guidelines 2015 - Section 392 of the Communications Act 2003 PDF, 61.0 KB

Revising the penalty guidelines - Consultation published 30|07|2015 - Statement published 03|12|15

This document outlines Ofcom's commitment to maintain records of its activities, the key principles for managing records in all media, and the roles of all colleagues in its management.

Who is responsible for Ofcom's records?

  • All colleagues must ensure that comprehensive records are kept of all Ofcom's activities, in accordance with current guidelines and for as long as required by the retention schedules.
  • Line managers must ensure that all colleagues in their team carry out their responsibilities in managing records and information, and are appraised on their performance.
  • Project Managers must ensure that a complete record of each project is maintained in accordance with records management and project management guidelines.
  • Local Information Managers in each business group ensure compliance with the policy and procedures, and promote effective information management within their team.
  • The Records and Information Management (RIM) Team operates a records and information management programme to comply with relevant legislation and standards, providing clear guidelines and practical procedures for all teams.
  • The Secretary of the Corporation as SIRO (Senior Information Risk Owner) is responsible for Ofcom's records and information management framework.

Why do we keep records?

Ofcom must maintain a complete set of records for as long as required to:

  • Comply with relevant legislation such as the Public Records Act, Data Protection Act, Freedom of Information Act and the Code of Compliance on Records Management.
  • Provide evidence of Ofcom's activities and decision making
  • Support and defend Ofcom's position in litigation
  • Enhance business efficiency
  • Promote collegiality and knowledge sharing

Ofcom's records management principles:

  • Records and information are owned by Ofcom, not by the individual or team
  • Keeping records is an integral part of all business activities
  • A complete record of all activities must be securely stored in a shared location, easily identified and accessible to those who need to see it
  • The complete record may be in any format, but preferably electronic – significant emails are held alongside other information and must not be stored solely in personal mailboxes
  • Information will be held only as long as required, and disposed of in accordance with the record retention policy and retention schedules
  • Practical guidance is made available to enable teams to manage their information.

Monitoring the policy:

Failure to manage information in accordance with relevant legislation could have serious consequences for Ofcom, its stakeholders and consumers.  To ensure Ofcom meets the requirements:

  • the RIM Team will regularly monitor compliance within each team or group
  • Action plans will be developed with teams where improvements are required
  • Records due for disposal under the records retention policy will be reviewed with each team or function on a regular basis, at least annually.
  • The policy and related guidelines will be reviewed annually.

Record retention policy

As a public body, Ofcom is obliged by law to manage its records effectively and to retain them only as long as necessary to meet business needs and statutory requirements.  To comply with this requirement Ofcom allocates retention periods to its records, to ensure that records for each function are retained for the appropriate length of time but no longer.  These retention periods are listed in Ofcom's retention schedules.

What is a retention period?

A retention period is a specific time period after which a document or file can be disposed of.  It comprises 3 elements:

  • Time period – expressed in years or sometimes months
  • Trigger –date of a document, end of financial year or closure of a project
  • Action – destroy/delete, review, or transfer to National Archive.

The review action is most often needed for policy project files where it is difficult to predict in advance which projects will have a lasting significance.  Ofcom will review these files either 5 or 10 years after closure of the project, destroy those files which have no lasting value and retain the more significant projects for a further period.

Decisions on retention periods for records

Ofcom aims to ensure that decisions on retention of records are thoroughly researched, that input is obtained from all interested parties and that decisions are approved at a senior level.  

Record retention schedules

Retention periods are available to all groups and teams, stating the period for which their records should be retained.

Retention of emails

Significant dialogue and decision making now often takes place by email. Storing such emails in personal Outlook mailboxes means they cannot be shared appropriately with other colleagues.  Actively retaining emails of record and minimising the accumulation of trivia will allow colleagues to access relevant information more efficiently and improve compliance with information management codes.

  • substantive emails should be saved to a shared location or placed on paper files
  • copies of substantive emails may be kept with other email messages in email folders
  • team retention policies should be applied to material in email folders
  • ephemeral emails which will not become a matter of record must be deleted as soon as possible.

Automatic deletion of emails

To ensure that email folders do not simply accumulate trivial exchanges of no substantive value, in other words those emails which colleagues do not retain for the record, emails left unclassified (i.e. not saved in named email folders or stored in read-only format on shared drives) in in-boxes, sent boxes or deleted boxes, will be automatically disposed of after 60 days.

Disposal of records

Once the retention period given in the retention schedules has passed, Ofcom must dispose of its records.  Ofcom is a public body and must transfer certain of its records to the National Archives (TNA) once they are no longer required for operational reasons, rather than shredding or deleting them.

Disposal is the stage at which our policies cease to be theoretical and are applied to real files or documents.  It is important to ensure that decisions on disposal are made with due consideration and that no one person is solely responsible for these decisions.  The record disposal processis co-ordinated by the RIM Team.

All paper records to be destroyed will be disposed of securely.

Electronic files in shared drives must be destroyed according to the same retention criteria as paper records.  A target time period for electronic review is being agreed with each team. The Records and Information Management Team will remind teams when this approaches.

Individuals are responsible for weeding their Outlook mailboxes and disposing of emails according to the retention periods for the matters to which the emails relate.

1.1 Ofcom is committed to reducing regulation and minimising administrative burdens on its stakeholders. We have a bias against regulatory intervention and, where we do need to intervene, we seek to use the least intrusive mechanisms. We also recognise the importance of keeping under review, and minimising, the burdens imposed by existing regulation. A key part of this is ensuring that our operational processes are efficient and user friendly.

1.2 This Simplification Plan sets out what Ofcom has done to reduce regulation since publishing our last Simplification Plan in December 2006, and outlines the further initiatives we will be taking over the coming year. For the purpose of consistency, any reference to "simplification initiatives" includes initiatives that are aimed at reducing regulatory burdens on our stakeholders, including administrative burdens associated with regulatory compliance.

1.3 The Government sees Simplification Plans as an important way of reducing the stock of existing regulation. It is committed to ensuring that it tackles unnecessary regulatory burdens on the private, public and third sectors in an increasingly competitive and global environment. Regulators and government departments will be reporting on the progress of their deregulatory initiatives by updating their Simplification Plans on an annual basis. Notwithstanding our status as an independent regulator, we welcome the Government's initiative in this area.

1.4 Section 6 of the Communications Act 2003 ("section 6") places a duty upon Ofcom not to impose burdens which are unnecessary or maintain burdens which have become unnecessary. It also requires Ofcom to publish a statement every 12 months, showing how it has fulfilled this duty. Our Simplification Plan shows explicitly how we have complied with section 6.

1.5 Ofcom published its last Simplification Plan in December 2006. This included an analysis of planned initiatives which were expected to lead to deregulation or reduced regulatory (including administrative) burdens on Ofcom's stakeholders. However, in line with the principle of proportionality, it focused on the areas where the cost savings would be most significant such as spectrum liberalisation of Citizens' Band Radio, Amateur Radio, Ships' Radio and Business Radio.

1.6 The detailed table annexed to this Simplification Plan provides information on completed, new and ongoing initiatives, and the extent to which these have reduced - or are expected to reduce - regulatory burdens by removing, reducing or simplifying regulation.

1.7 Better regulation will continue to be a priority that cuts across all our work. Our Draft Annual Plan 2008/09 (to be published next week) sets out Ofcom’s strategic policy framework which shows what our key areas of focus are. In some areas, such as spectrum liberalisation, we have already announced proposals to make further significant reductions in regulation and administrative burdens. Furthermore, increased competition and convergence are likely to create further opportunities to remove formal regulation and extend co- and self-regulation. In other areas, new rules may be needed, but we will seek the least intrusive mechanisms available.

Simplification plan: 2007 PDF, 195.5 KB

This Scheme sets out how in the conduct of its public business, Ofcom will treat the English and Welsh languages on the basis of equality. The terms of the Scheme were decided by the Welsh Minister for Education and Skills on 29 May 2012 under section 14(5) of the Welsh Language Act 1993. The amended Scheme was approved by the Welsh Language Commissioner on 04 February 2014 and can be found at the link below:

Ofcom's Welsh language scheme PDF, 184.2 KB

In line with section 3.8 of Ofcom's Statement of Charging Principles we publish the following list of Networks & Services providers who pay administrative fees. Listed below are all providers who are liable to pay these fees, as set out in the notice of designation. The fees payable remain confidential to the companies concerned and are based on self-certified relevant turnover submissions for the appropriate calendar year as defined in our Statement of Charging Principles.

Networks & Services Providers Billed for 2016/17 Ofcom Administrative Charges

Ofcom will generally not pre-disclose its documents to stakeholders ahead of publication. For further information contact the Ofcom analyst relations manager.

In order to respect your privacy, we process your personal data in accordance with the data protection principles, namely:,

  1. Personal data shall be processed fairly and lawfully.
  2. Personal data shall be obtained only for one or more specified and lawful purposes, and shall not be further processed in any manner incompatible with that purpose or those purposes.
  3. Personal data shall be adequate, relevant and not excessive in relation to the purpose or purposes for which they are processed.
  4. Personal data shall be accurate and, where necessary, kept up to date.
  5. Personal data processed for any purpose or purposes shall not be kept for longer than is necessary for that purpose or those purposes.
  6. Personal data shall be processed in accordance with the rights of data subjects under this Act.
  7. Appropriate technical and organisational measures shall be taken against unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data and against accidental loss or destruction of, or damage to, personal data.
  8. Personal data shall not be transferred to a country or territory outside the European Economic Area unless that country or territory ensures an adequate level of protection for the rights and freedoms of data subjects in relation to the processing of personal data.

Published by the Information Commissioner's Office May 2006

Treat all colleagues with dignity and respect in an inclusive and fair working environment. Promote equality of opportunity for all, not only within Ofcom but also the sectors we regulate.

At Ofcom we are determined to do all we can to promote Diversity and Equality inside our organisation and in the wider sectors we regulate.

Why do we conduct research?

Ofcom is an evidence-based regulator. Market research is important to Ofcom and many of our decisions are informed by research evidence.

The citizen and consumer interest is at the heart of everything Ofcom does. Research ensures that Ofcom has a thorough, robust and up-to-date understanding of consumers in the UK.

We work with independent market research agencies to conduct research among consumers of communications services.

How do we collect data?

Our market intelligence team collects and analyses information from industry; directly, by using our power to make formal requests; and indirectly, by using third-party information sources. It monitors and interprets market developments and industry trends, across the media and telecommunications sectors and other relevant industries, at company, sector, UK and overseas levels.

Where can I find Ofcom’s research and data publications?

We publish our research, so that industry stakeholders and consumers can benefit from it. All our research and data publications are on the website here.