Fairness for Customers – progress updates

Ofcom's Fairness for Customers logo

Ofcom wants customers to get a fair deal for their services.

Competition and innovation have delivered lower prices, better services, wider coverage and improved reliability.But choice can sometimes be confusing, and providers don’t always make it easy for customers to get the best deal for them. So we are standing up for customers and making sure companies treat them fairly.

Ensuring fairness for customers is a priority for us – particularly for those in vulnerable circumstances, whether through their income, age, disability or other circumstances. In 2019, the UK’s biggest broadband, phone and pay-TV providers signed up to Ofcom’s Fairness for Customers commitments., which are designed to help ensure companies put fairness at the heart of their businesses and proactively go beyond their formal obligations.

The UK’s telecoms markets are among the most competitive in the world. This has delivered significant choice and value for money for most customers. Our research shows that UK mobile prices are lower than in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the US. At the same time, broadband customers are generally getting more for less. Average monthly data use has increased sharply in recent years, while household spend on broadband remains largely the same. We will continue to promote competition to help ensure customers can access faster, better services.

However, not everyone is benefiting from this competition. We have been concerned about some people – particularly those in vulnerable circumstances – not getting the support they need, paying more than they need to because they find it difficult to navigate the market.

In 2021 we reviewed progress on the Fairness for Customers commitments, finding that signatories have taken steps to promote fairness for their customers – particularly towards making fairness central to how companies run their businesses, and in addressing some of our concerns on pricing and the treatment of vulnerable customers – but progress has been mixed and we continue to challenge providers to do more. Our assessment shows that there is room for improvement in every area. We are particularly concerned about customer service levels. Call centre wait times have risen in the past year, highlighting issues around the ease with which customers can change or exit contracts and report faults. Customer satisfaction with complaint handling has remained just above 50% since before the commitments were launched. Whilst we recognise the particular challenges in call centre capacity over the past twelve months caused by Covid-19, it is vital that providers now focus on improving customer service.

We are continuing our strategic priority to make sure customers are treated fairly, pay fair prices and can easily take advantage of the deals available. Among other things, we are: making it simpler to switch; monitoring and reporting on the prices paid by customers; making sure providers identify and support vulnerable customers; using data to understand vulnerable customers’ needs and help them get better deals; and shining a light on companies’ performance. On the Fairness for Customers commitments, we encourage other providers to join and will ask signatories to report on progress again next year.