The report identifies a number of specific examples of a heavy-handed regulatory approach, including:
- Micro-management of customer service: Ofcom is asking operators to gather and publicise information of no interest to customers
- Efforts to improve price transparency on national numbers that may lead to Ofcom setting the price of individual calls
- Slow regulator reaction over misselling complaints – industry self-regulation reduced complaints by 95% while Ofcom were still drafting their consultation
- Attempts to reduce the time to port a number between operators to less than 48 hours, even though this timescale is satisfactory for consumers
- Demanding mobile providers deliver 100% mobile coverage across the UK, even though this would take resources away from investment in new technology and improved services.
The report sets out a series of recommendations which emphasise the ample opportunities for Ofcom to withdraw from detailed regulation. With this goal in mind the report recommends that the regulator should prepare a timetable for phased regulatory withdrawal across the sector. In this context, it is important to note that the recently strengthened EU Consumer Rights Directive provides an unprecedented opportunity to wind up sector-specific consumer rights regulation and replace it with a set of robust consumer rights based on the new EU Directive.
Accordingly, the report calls for a systematic toolkit to be developed in order to stimulate greater competition and ensure that consumers enjoy similar rights across a raft of sectors, such as energy, telecommunications and water services. This should be a welcome development for consumers who should find such an overhauled system easier to use and consistent across the entire range of goods and services offered in the UK retail market.