General Conditions of Entitlement
The General Conditions of Entitlement are the regulatory conditions that all providers of electronic communications networks and services must comply with if they want to provide services in the UK.
They replaced the former licensing regime which applied under the Telecommunications Act 1984 until 25 July 2003, when the EU communications regulatory framework was implemented in the UK through the Communications Act 2003.
The General Conditions are conditions which are of general application. We can impose them on all communications providers or on all providers of networks or services of a particular description. Unlike universal service conditions, “SMP” conditions (which are imposed as a result of a finding of significant market power) and access-related conditions, General Conditions cannot be imposed on specific individual providers.
See an unofficial consolidated version of the General Conditions (PDF, 1010.0 KB) that came into force on 17 June 2022.
Implementation of the European Electronic Communications Code (EECC)
In December 2018, the European Electronic Communications Code (EECC), an EU Directive, updated the regulatory framework for electronic communications services, with an implementation date of 21 December 2020. Although the UK left the EU on 31 January 2020, under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement the UK remained under an obligation to implement the EECC into domestic law. The UK Government made changes to the Communications Act 2003 to implement various requirements of the EECC into domestic law.
The EECC contains a package of measures designed to protect customers of electronic communications services including broadband, mobile and landline services. Ofcom has made changes to the General Conditions in order to implement the new EECC protections.
Scope of application and definitions
The General Conditions broadly fall into three main categories:
- network functioning conditions (Part A of the General Conditions);
- numbering and other technical conditions (Part B of the General Conditions); and
- consumer protection conditions (Part C of the General Conditions).
At the beginning of each General Condition, its scope of application is set out by describing the category of communications providers to which the condition applies and defining that category of providers as “Regulated Providers” for the purpose of individual conditions. Some General Conditions, such as conditions A2 and B1, apply to all “Communications Providers”, whereas others apply to more limited categories of CPs, for example condition C8 applies to mobile service providers.
All the definitions used in the General Conditions are set out in a single ‘Definitions’ section at the end of the General Conditions. These include the terms “Electronic Communications Network” and “Electronic Communications Service”, which are relevant to the definition of “Communications Provider”.
Part A: Network functioning conditions
This condition requires all providers of public electronic communications networks to negotiate interconnection agreements with other network providers on request and requires all communications providers to respect the confidentiality of information obtained in connection with network access negotiations.
This condition ensures that all communications providers adopt common technical standards by requiring them to comply with any compulsory EU standards and specifications and take account of other European and international standards and specifications.
This condition aims to ensure the fullest possible availability of public communications services at all times, including in the event of a disaster or catastrophic network failure, and uninterrupted access to emergency organisations. It requires providers of call services to ensure that calls can be made to emergency organisations free of charge and to make caller location information available to emergency organisations where technically feasible. It also includes specific rules relating to providers of VoIP outbound call services which aim to ensure that users of those services are aware of any potential limitations on making calls to emergency organisations and that accurate and up-to-date caller location information can be provided to the emergency organisations where possible.
This condition requires all communications providers who provide voice communications services or a public electronic communications network over which these services are provided, to agree arrangements with emergency organisations and other public authorities to ensure the provision or rapid restoration of networks and services in the event of a disaster.
Related documents: Emergency planning direction (PDF, 204.3 KB)
This condition provides Ofcom with a power to direct that broadcasting network providers must carry certain public service broadcasting (PSB) television channels. This list of PSB channels is set out in the Communications Act 2003 and is subject to revision by order of the Secretary of State.
Part B: Numbering and technical conditions
This condition sets out the terms under which communications providers may apply for, be allocated and adopt telephone numbers so as to ensure their effective and efficient use.
This condition requires all communications providers to whom telephone numbers are allocated to pass on the directory information of their subscribers to others persons so as to ensure that a comprehensive directory database can be compiled from which directory products and services can be provided. It also requires directories to be updated at least once a year and provided to subscribers on request.
This condition sets out the rules which communications providers must follow when customers request to take their landline and/or mobile number(s) with them when changing provider.
This condition aims to ensure that end-users can access all telephone numbers (and the services provided on those numbers) and that communications providers only block access to telephone numbers where instructed to do so by Ofcom for reasons of fraud or misuse.
Related document: Ofcom’s CLI Guidelines
Part C: Consumer protection conditions
This condition aims to protect consumers and end-users by ensuring that contracts for a connection to a public electronic communications network or for public electronic communications services include minimum terms and information. It also sets out requirements about contract duration, contract renewal, end-of-contract notifications, annual best tariff information, facilitating changes of communications provider and end-users’ rights to terminate a contract, which are designed to ensure that end users are treated fairly and able to switch to a different provider in appropriate cases.
Related documents: Ofcom’s guidance on Condition C1 (PDF, 443.3 KB)
This condition aims to ensure the availability of adequate, up-to-date, comparable information for consumers on the prices, tariffs, terms and conditions of communications services, and any charges applicable on termination of their contract so as to enable consumers to compare easily the offers and services available in the market. In addition, it aims to ensure that pricing and charges relating to premium rate services, non-geographic numbers and personal numbers are clear.
The condition also requires information to be made available to small and medium-sized business customers about the levels of service offered to them and the payment of compensation for certain failures in service quality, and requires the provision of information to third parties for the purposes of providing qualifying comparison tools.
Related documents: Statement on Digital comparison tools (PDF, 594.9 KB)
This condition aims to ensure that customers of communications providers are not overcharged and that they receive the services they are charged and pay for, that they can adequately control how much they spend on the usage of voice call and data services, and that they are treated fairly where they have not paid their bills.
This condition ensures that all communications providers handle complaints they receive from their customers in accordance with certain minimum procedural standards. This condition requires communications providers to ensure that their complaints handling procedures are accessible to customers, including those who are disabled and those who are in circumstances that may make them vulnerable, and to set out their complaints handling procedures in a code of practice. This condition also requires communications providers to be members of an independent alternative dispute scheme and to comply with the decisions of that scheme.
This condition aims to ensure that communications providers give sufficient consideration to the particular needs of people with disabilities and people whose circumstances may make them vulnerable. It also aims to ensure that people with disabilities can obtain comparable access to public electronic communications services to that of non-disabled people and that their access to these services when they have a genuine need is protected.
This condition requires communications providers to provide calling line identification facilities by default wherever technically feasible and economically viable, so that call recipients can identify the person calling them and choose whether or not to accept the call.
To assist with the identification of callers and reduce the incidence of nuisance calls, all communications providers should ensure that any telephone number associated with a call at the network level and/or presented to a call recipient is a valid, diallable number which enables the calling party to be identified, so that the call recipient can make a return call to that person.
Related documents: Ofcom’s CLI Guidelines (PDF, 296.7 KB)
This condition aims to protect domestic and small business customers during the process of switching their landline and/or broadband services, either when moving from one communications provider to another, or staying with the same communications provider when moving location, or changing services with the same communications provider. It also aims to protect domestic and small business customers when switching mobile provider, whether or not they bring their mobile number with them when they switch.
This condition aims to protect consumers, microenterprise and small enterprise customers and not-for-profit customers by ensuring communications providers observe certain obligations when selling and marketing their mobile call and text services. It also requires communications providers to put in place certain minimum standard provisions in respect of the sales and marketing behaviour of their retailers.