How Ofcom enforces regulatory, consumer and competition rules

Published: 27 November 2023

Ofcom is the independent regulator, competition authority and designated enforcer of consumer law for the UK’s communications sectors.

We investigate potential breaches of regulatory, consumer and competition rules in the communications sectors for which we are responsible. We also resolve regulatory disputes between companies.

We might investigate a specific company that we think may have failed to comply with the law. Or we might open an ‘enforcement programme’ that monitors compliance across multiple companies. Sometimes we even take more informal action to address our concerns about compliance.

It is not possible for us to investigate every complaint or dispute. We generally prioritise issues that:

  • may be of widespread concern to consumers;
  • are relevant to the strategic aims set out in our plan of work;
  • significantly affect competition in communications markets; and/or
  • involve a regulatory dispute between companies that cannot be solved by any other means.

Ofcom has published guidelines setting out our powers and the processes we will follow in conducting investigations into adherence with regulatory rules, consumer protection issues, competition issues and resolving regulatory disputes.

Enforcement guidelines

These guidelines set out how we will approach enforcement with respect to compliance with regulatory requirements and consumer protection legislation. These guidelines apply to all of our enforcement work, except where otherwise stated or where we have good reason to depart from them.

Enforcement guidelines for regulatory investigations

We have also set out the process we will normally follow for Competition Act investigations.

Enforcement guidelines for Competition Act investigations

We have also set out how we will investigate compliance with, and approach enforcement of competition-related conditions in Broadcasting Act licences.

Procedures for investigating breaches of competition-related conditions in Broadcasting Act licences

Penalty guidelines

Our penalty guidelines set out how we will determine the amount of any financial penalty we may impose.

Dispute guidelines

These guidelines explain our process for handling regulatory disputes between companies, including how you can refer a dispute to Ofcom.

Approval of Redress Schemes under the Competition Act 1998

The CMA and the sector regulators with concurrent competition powers, including Ofcom, have powers to approve certain voluntary redress schemes in cases involving the infringement of competition law.

Where a business offers a redress scheme, those affected by the infringement are able to claim compensation through such a scheme without the need to pursue litigation in the courts.

The CMA and the concurrent regulators are required to publish guidance on the handling of applications made to them for the approval of redress schemes.

In August 2015 the CMA published guidance on voluntary redress schemes. Ofcom was fully consulted on the contents of the guidance and decided to adopt the guidance in relation to redress schemes in competition cases affecting those sectors where Ofcom has concurrent competition powers, namely in communications sectors including broadcasting, telecommunications and postal services.

We publish the details of our investigations, or ‘cases’, as they progress. Head to the enforcement section of our website to find all our open and closed cases. These include:

  • Formal investigations
  • Enforcement programmes
  • Disputes
  • Other enforcement work (to assure compliance)

Each case has a page we update as it develops. When we close a case, we will publish the outcome on the same page. You can also subscribe to email updates from us.

Cases from before 2003

You can also access issues of the Competition Bulletin from before 1 March 2003. Oftel (Ofcom’s predecessor in the telecoms market) published these on a quarterly basis.

As a company or organisation

If you think you need to make a complaint about a communications provider breaching their legal obligations, read our advice for complainants. Please note that Ofcom does not tend to get involved in contractual disputes between businesses and their communications provider.

As a communications provider

If you are a communications provider and think you need to refer a dispute with another provider to Ofcom, read our dispute resolution guidelines. For more information on how to submit a complaint, please contact us at

You can challenge the outcome of an Ofcom investigation by appealing to the Competition Appeal Tribunal.

Rate this page

Thank you for your feedback.

We read all feedback but are not able to respond. If you have a specific query you should see other ways to contact us.

Was this page helpful?
Back to top