Ofcom's General Conditions
Below is a summary of some of the key aspects of the General Conditions of Entitlement that protect business customers.
The first section summarises the requirements that benefit all business customers of landline, broadband or mobile services. The second section summarises additional protections that are in place for business customers with no more than 10 employees.
You should refer to the full text of the General Conditions for more detail about their scope and application. The General Conditions are amended from time to time and Ofcom issues a policy statement each time these changes are made or a new General Condition is introduced.
Rights that apply to all businesses
Under the requirements of C1, providers must ensure that:
- they provide their customers with a contract that covers a minimum set of information including details of the minimum service quality levels offered and details of their prices and tariffs (C1.3);
- they offer at least one 12-month contract for each service, e.g. landline, broadband (C1.13);
- customers are given at least one-month notice of any change to the contract that is not to their benefit and the option to exit the contract penalty-free (C1.14 and C1.15); and
- customers are sent end-of-contract and annual best tariff notifications (C1.21 – C1.36).
Under the requirements of C2, providers of broadband, landline and mobile services must ensure that:
- they publish a list of information for its customers that includes, amongst other things, a description of the services offered, tariff information and standard contract conditions (C2.3).
Under the requirements of C3, providers must ensure that:
- customers are billed accurately (C3.2);
- adequate and up-to-date billing information is available to customers (C3.7); and
- if a customer is having problems paying their bill, any steps that are taken in relation to payment or disconnection are proportionate and not unduly discriminatory (C3.11).
General condition C5 covers rules related to measures for disabled end-users and subscribers. You can find out more by viewing our guide Disabled people and communications services.
Rights for SME customers (a business that has less than 250 employees)
Under the requirements of C2, providers of broadband, landline and mobile services must:
- publish certain information in relation to its standard SME contracts that includes any service level agreements and any service level guarantees (e.g. in the event of a loss of service) (C2.14);
- provide this information free of charge and in a durable medium to any SME customer that is entering a contract with the provider (C2.15).
Additional rights for businesses with ten employees or fewer
Under the requirements of C1, providers must ensure that:
- customers are provided with key contract information (e.g. charges, the length of the contract and the process for cancelling) in writing before they can be bound by the contract (C1.3 and C1.4);
- customers are provided with a one-page (three-page for bundled services) contract summary before they can give consent to enter the contract (C1.5 and C1.6);
- conditions and procedures for contract termination do not act as a disincentive to a customer switching provider (C1.8 – this rule also applies to bundles);
- a customer has given consent before a contract can be renewed at the end of any commitment period (C1.10);
- no phone and/or broadband contracts are offered with a commitment period longer than 24 months (C1.11 – this rule also applies to bundles);
- the duration of a customer’s existing contract is not extended when the customer buys additional services or terminal equipment, unless the customer provides consent (C1.12 – this rule also applies to bundles); and
- the end-of-contract and annual best tariff notifications that are sent to customers also include details of other contracts taken as part of a bundle (C1.21 – C1.36).
Under the requirements of C3, providers of broadband, landline and mobile services must ensure that:
- customers are notified when a service included in their tariff plan is fully used up (C3.13); and
- the notification advising that a service has been fully used up includes information on the charges that will be incurred outside of the tariff plan (C3.14).
Under the requirements of C4, providers must ensure that:
- they have complaint handling procedures in place that meet certain minimum standards set out in the Ofcom Approved Complaints Code (C4.2); and
- they are a member of an Ofcom-approved Alternative Dispute Resolution scheme and provide their customers with information about accessing the scheme (C4.3).
The requirements of C7 are designed to protect customers switching their landline and/or broadband services when:
- moving from one provider to another;
- staying with the same provider when moving location; or
- changing services with the same provider.
The requirements of C7 are also designed to protect mobile customers, whether or not they decide to keep their mobile number when they switch provider.
Under the requirements of C8, providers must ensure that:
- when selling or marketing mobile services, the information provided to customers is accurate and not misleading (C8.2).
During a contract, your business may change in size, and this may affect the rules and regulations that apply to you. If your business falls below the 10 employee threshold, you may want to have a look at your contract and consider the guidance we set out.
As a business, your rights are the same as a residential consumer when you use a universal postal service provided by Royal Mail. Royal Mail is the UK's Designated Universal Service Provider (DUSP).
Universal services are subject to specific regulation which means that they are subject to quality of service targets, and compensation for delay, damage and loss. In addition, both business and residential senders of letter mail can use alternative dispute resolution processes (PostRS) if your complaint against the delivery operator is not resolved satisfactorily.
If the postal service you use is not a universal service, and you would like to complain, then you need to check your contract terms and contact your provider directly. All postal operators must have a complaints procedure. You can find the details of all the regulatory conditions for postal services on Ofcom's website.
The universal postal service excludes bulk mail, so if you receive a discount because of the volume of your mail and/or because you sort it before handing it to Royal Mail, it won't be covered by the regulations that apply to universal postal services.
There are also a number of pieces of legislation that cover general aspects of business to business activity, and these offer some other general protections. For example:
- The Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 imposes certain provisions that relate to businesses e.g. limits on providers seeking to exclude liability for matters such as contract breaches and negligence.
- The Sale of Goods Act 1979 means that goods you are sold must fit their description, be fit for purpose and be of satisfactory quality.
- The Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 states that the goods and services your provider delivers you must be provided with appropriate care and skill within a reasonable time and for a reasonable payment.
- The Business Protection from Misleading Marketing and Regulations 2008 prohibit misleading business-to-business advertising and impose restrictions on how businesses compare their products to rival products from other companies.