Posted on: 26th November 2020, by Magrathea
After a year of many industry consultations we are nearing the end of the Ofcom work on implementing the European Electronic Communication Code (EECC), a statement has been released but there are a few follow up questions so we won’t publish full details to our clients until the final statement and changes to General Conditions are complete.
The great news is that Ofcom did listen to some of our objections to the first consultation, particularly around who the regulations are applied to, meaning this latest version excludes large businesses from some of the more onerous obligations.
However, with some of the changes requiring quite a bit of work for our clients what follows is a simplified summary of what you can expect so you can be prepared.
Some new definitions are being introduced and the General Conditions will be updated to make this more consistent throughout. This includes a new definition for Electronic Communication Services (ECS) and Electronic Communications Networks (ECN). The ECS will have sub categories including ‘Internet Access Services’ and ‘Interpersonal Communications Services’ as well as ‘Number based interpersonal communication services’ which ensures services relating to over the top services that don’t require a telephone number can be covered alongside number-based services.
Removing disincentives to switching providers
It has been widely reported that from December 2021 mobile providers will no longer be allowed to lock a device to a network as this is seen as a disincentive to switch. This has been welcomed by many consumer groups and some networks are already complying.
In addition, there are more stringent rules around switching services such as broadband and phone packages between providers. Some of the rules only apply to residential consumers but as industry have not yet been able to agree on a solution to implement the requirements there will be a further consultation on this shortly. Business switching is going to take even longer to resolve!
Number porting often plays a part in switching so we do hope that as the ideas progress in this area number porting may get swept along with it, we will be doing our best to keep it top of the agenda.
Due to the complexity of this particular topic Ofcom have given until December 2022 to comply. The key points to be aware of are:
- A consumer’s right to port extends to one month after the service has ceased, unless they specifically renounce the right.
- The consumer may not be charged for porting, meaning you can’t directly pass on your wholesale service costs.
- Splitting of number blocks must be allowed where technically available.
Improving consumer information and choice
The aim of the code is to give consumers better protections and greater ability to compare and choose services. To this end from June 2022 customers must be given a short summary of your main contract terms in writing before they sign up to a contract. This applies to micro, small and not for profit organisations, although they may waive this right by clearly referencing that decision in the pre-contract information.
Contracts must not exceed 24 months (except for physical connections) unless a waiver is signed (large businesses are exempt from this rule) and if additional services are added during the term of the contract you cannot extend the original term of the contract without express permission from the customer.
Also, from June 2022, if you, as a provider, make a contract change mid-term the customer has a right to exit penalty free, regardless of who the change benefits. Again, this applies to micro and small enterprise, not for profit organisations and residential users. The only exception is if the change is purely administrative with no negative impact or the change is imposed by law.
From December 2021 disabled customers must have equivalent access to information, except marketing material, free of charge on request.
Whilst we are not adopting this one in the UK it will apply to any of our clients with European numbers.
From December 2020 the regulation will require all EU countries to set the same price cap on terminating geographic numbers. The new rule also states that this price cap should apply to calls originating from non-EU countries too, which would help greatly where currently some large surcharges are being applied.
However, the no surcharge requirement only applies if the originating country has a termination rate that is the same or less than the Eurorate FTR, in other words if fair reciprocal pricing policies exist.
This policy is currently expected to extend to the UK, albeit with our independent price cap, but the requirement to not heavily surcharge calls that originate internationally to achieve a fair reciprocal relationship does seem to be favored by most regulators and should resolve some of the extraordinary pricing practices we have seen over the last couple of years.
We don’t expect to be able to update all of our client guidance until early next year but we will continue following the Ofcom work closely and will issue revised documents as soon as everything is final. Meanwhile if you have any queries or concerns that you want to chat through with us please do get in touch. The sooner we can all get prepared the less painful it will be!