Three, TalkTalk and consumer groups say Ofcom decisions are too easily blocked by big companies
TalkTalk and Three have joined forces with consumer groups Which? And Consumer Futures to issue an open letter to government ministers Maria Miller and Vince Cable declaring the group’s support for reforms to Ofcom that would make it more difficult for regulatory decisions to be challenged on technical details.
The letter, signed by TalkTalk CEO Dido Harding and Three chief executive Dave Dyson, says the current system allows large companies to block reforms through legal challenges – making any change slow and expensive to implement.
“The purpose of an appeals regime should be to enable challenges when the regulator has made a bad decision or a mistake, but to deter appeals when the regulator has not made that type of error. We believe that this is the regime we have today,” reads the letter, which adds that the “routine use” of legal challenges is having a “chilling effect” on policy by diverting resources away from “good regulation.”
One example used is that Ofcom’s proposals to allow consumers to switch provider without asking permission from their previous supplier have been blocked since 2007. Three says Vodafone, supported by O2, T-Mobile and Orange, issued a legal challenge, which has meant the plans never came into force.
“The opportunity is now. As you make final decisions on the reform of the appeals process, we urge you to act,” the letter continues. “We want the regulator to be strong, effective and able to do its job. We believe the implementation of an effective appeals system will support economic growth and investment, improve competition and bring new benefits to UK consumers.”
TalkTalk has repeatedly called for regulation of the superfast broadband market, claiming that BT and Virgin Media enjoy a virtual duopoly. CEO Dido Harding says the market is not as competitive as the one for copper – an area Ofcom is making wholesale prices even cheaper
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