Landline providers will be banned from charging for caller display facilities from 1 October 2018. The change is one of a number being made by Ofcom as it tweaks some of its regulations in order to provide more protection for consumers. Ofcom said caller display features can help people screen nuisance calls.
Some providers, such as TalkTalk and Sky, offer the service to their landline customers at no extra cost but BT charges ?1.75 a month and Virgin Media ?2.25 a month.
As well as having to provide the service free of charge, providers will also need to ensure that the numbers being displayed are valid, dialable and uniquely identify the caller.
They will also be required to identify and block calls with invalid or non-dialable numbers.
Other changes being introduced by Ofcom next year include the requirement for all communications providers to offer disabled customers access to priority fault repair, third party bill management and accessible bills.
These facilities are already in place for landline and mobile services but will be extended to cover broadband.
Firms must also have clear policies in place for identifying vulnerable customers to ensure they are treated fairly and appropriately.
Ofcom’s examples of vulnerable customers include people with learning or communication difficulties and those suffering physical or mental illness or bereavement.
Rules on billing accuracy, which currently cover voice call services, are being extended to include broadband and complaints handling rules are being strengthened in a bid to speed up the complaints process for consumers.
Separately, Ofcom is consulting on its powers to withdraw telephone numbers if they are misused, for example to cause harm or nuisance, or to engage in fraud.
It is also looking at which public bodies can request communications services to be restored in the event of a disaster and how providers should handle cancellation requests from customers.
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Digital Minister Matt Hancock has urged the Scottish government to speed up the rollout of superfast broadband. According to Mr Hancock, funding was allocated more than three years ago, while procurement had been largely completed by almost every council in England, Wales and Northern Ireland by June 2015. However, he said the procurement process is yet to start in Scotland and, as a result, it is falling behind the rest of Britain when it comes to deploying superfast broadband.
“The Scottish government has been the slowest of all the organisations around the country to contract the broadband that we so desperately need,” Mr Hancock commented.
“That is why Scotland is behind.”
Mr Hancock stated that while Westminster is offering the Scottish government technical support, it remains behind “every English county”, as well as the governments in Wales and Northern Ireland.
“They need to get a move on,” he added.
Broadband providers are failing to keep customers up to date on the status of their contracts, according to new research from comparethemarket.com.
59% of broadband customers claim that they have never been informed by their provider of their contract coming to an end, whilst one third (33%) of customers say that they do not know when their contract expires. Against a backdrop of three years of broadband price rises, over 10% of customers – equating to around 2.5 million broadband users across the UK – admit to having no idea how much they pay for their broadband package. Furthermore, 13% said that they did not know if their broadband bills had gone up, down or stayed the same for the last three years. The majority of customers are also unaware of their connection requirements, with over half (52%) claiming that they do not do know what speed they need, meaning that potentially over 13 million households could be paying for more than they need. Indeed, 72% of customers admitted to having either a ‘fairly vague’ or ‘no idea’ of their speed requirements, with only 8% saying they had a ‘very good idea’.
The fact that such a significant proportion of customers do not know how much they pay for their broadband, contrasts with the finding that 41% of customers consider price their main priority when choosing a package. This compares with less than a quarter (24%) who cite a fast connection as the most important factor. Peter Earl, Head of Energy & Utilities at comparethemarket.com, said: “Whilst price is clearly viewed as the deciding factor when it comes to choosing a broadband package, our research findings suggest that many customers may not actually have a view on whether what they pay is appropriate.
In a price-hike world, where the cost of internet packages is often rising, it is concerning to see that so many customers seem to be in the dark around the conditions of their contract.
“Not only are many customers unaware of the length of their contract, a significant proportion do not know how much their package is costing them, or even if they need the connection speed they are paying for.
We would always recommend that consumers review their broadband package carefully on an annual basis to ensure they are not overpaying and that their bills have not been hiked without them realising.”