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The Credit Services Association (CSA)
Ofcom Annual Plan 2015/16
Ofcom has published its Annual Plan for 2015/16, setting out its priorities and work programme for the year to 31 March 2016.
The regulator identifies and outlines 11 priorities within the document and five main targeted areas of progress, along with a summary of their wider programme and approach.
Daniel Spenceley, CSA compliance manager, has provided an overview of areas of the plan which affect Members of the Association.
For CSA Members , Ofcom’s inclusion of ‘protect consumers from harm’ within their five key areas of progress is particularly relevant.
Under this area of focus, identified priorities are as follows:
- Introduce clearer pricing for numbers starting 08, 09 and 118, and make ‘080’ and ‘116’ calls free from mobiles
- Monitor and ensure improved quality of service and customer service performance
- Protect consumers from harm in a range of priority areas including nuisance calls
They also mention that they plan to carry out work that focuses on nuisance calls, which will see them continue the work they have been carrying out in conjunction with the Information Commissioner’s Office under their Joint Action Plan.
Along with their continued collaboration with the Information Commissioner’s Office, the Annual Plan outlines in more detail the approach they will be taking to address nuisance calls:
“In 2015/16 our planned work will include:
- an ongoing programme addressing nuisance calls, as set out in our joint action plan with the Information Commissioner’s Office. This includes a focus on technical measures, working with UK industry and international organisations, to improve the ability to identify callers. This work is set out in paragraph A2.32 below;
- continued focus on securing providers’ compliance with complaints handling rules, including investigations as appropriate, and working with industry to drive improvements in customer service more generally in telecoms; 26 Annual Plan 2015/16
- an ongoing monitoring and enforcement programme to tackle mis-selling and ‘slamming’ (including erroneous landline transfers), including through investigations as appropriate; and
- continued focus on compliance with Ofcom’s Guidance on mid-contract price increases.”
Page 18 of Ofcom’s Annual Plan details some potential future work areas they may look at (beyond 2015/2016), one of which is “the increasing use of consumer data and information”. Ultimately, the ICO will be the body responsible for this particular area, but it may also appear on Ofcom’s radar too.
Caller line identification
Ofcom also set out some other areas of work that they plan to look at over 2015/2016, although these were of lesser priority. One of those areas was “work with UK and international bodies to promote improvements in caller line identification”. Although it is unlikely that any Members are concealing their identity or using inappropriate telephone numbers when contacting customers, improvements from Ofcom in this area should eventually ensure that this practice is put to an end. This is explained in more detail in the Annual Plan:
“Work with UK and international bodies to promote improvements in caller line identification
A2.32 Unsolicited calls and texts cause significant nuisance, annoyance and in some cases distress for consumers. Ofcom has been taking action in this area as a priority for a number of years. But the volume of unsolicited ‘nuisance’ calls remains high, and is likely to rise, aided by the rapidly decreasing costs of generating calls. At the same time, VoIP technologies enable callers to alter their caller line identification (CLI) so as to obscure their identities, enabling a growing number of cases of serious fraud.
“A2.33 Ofcom has been working with the NICC (a technical forum for the UK communications sector that develops interoperability standards) and communications providers to improve ways of tracing nuisance calls across networks.
“A2.34 A longer-term goal is the introduction of CLI ‘authentication’ practices. In 2015/16 we will engage with UK and international bodies to promote further improvements to the information available to users about who is calling them (i.e. caller line identification), particularly when calls pass between networks. We are engaged with the US Federal Communications Committee (FCC)’s work to develop technical solutions to CLI ‘spoofing’, which will be delivered through the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and ITU, and we have established a related Memorandum of Understanding with other national regulatory authorities. This type of solution will require the development of CLI authorisation through a certification scheme.
“A2.35 We anticipate undertaking further work on nuisance calls in 2015/16 that will aim to deliver CLI assurance in the UK, predicated on the progress of standardisation work in the IETF in 2015. We will complement this with our ongoing work with other regulatory and standards bodies and engagement with BEREC.”