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Improving quality of service for consumers and businesses

Consumers are largely satisfied with their communications services, new research from Ofcom has found, but the quality of these services can still be improved.

Ofcom’s Consumer Experience of 2014 report finds that, for every communications service, the proportion of users who were dissatisfied was either stable or declined last year (see chart below). Nine per cent of broadband users remain dissatisfied with their service, compared to 6% of mobile users, 4% of landline callers and 4% of TV viewers.

People in the UK increasingly depend on telephone, broadband, broadcasting and postal services in their personal and professional lives. Yesterday’s report highlights Ofcom’s work to ensure good communications services for consumers wherever they live, and whatever their circumstances. This includes:

Improving telecoms installations and repairs. Ofcom has imposed new performance requirements on Openreach, the company that installs and maintains connections to BT's network for different providers. The company must now fix the vast majority of faults on telephone or broadband lines within two working days, and provide an appointment for the vast majority of new lines to be installed within 12 working days. Openreach's performance has improved in line with the new requirements, and Ofcom will review its performance fully in the summer.

Improving mobile calls. Consumers often face ‘partial not-spots’ where not all operators are present. Ofcom's plan to improve mobile service includes technical support for the Government’s recent agreement with mobile operators to take voice and text coverage from each mobile operator across 90% of the UK geography by 2017. Ofcom has also introduced a rule that will ensure 4G mobile broadband services reach 98% of the population.

Monitoring postal targets. Ofcom monitors Royal Mail’s performance against quality of service targets for the universal postal service. Royal Mail significantly improved its quality of service in 2013/14, meeting its First Class delivery target in 114 of 118 postcode areas, up from 73 postcode areas the year before. The company also exceeded national targets set by Ofcom for First and Second class delivery.

Better subtitling on TV. Ofcom now reports on the quality of live TV subtitling, examining speed, delays and errors that occur in this important service for the deaf and hard of hearing. As well as requiring broadcasters to measure quality of subtitles regularly, Ofcom expects them to identify and act upon opportunities in future to improve live subtitling.

Information to help consumers and incentivise providers. Ofcom continues to publish reports on complaints about major telecoms and pay TV providers, and is considering expanding these to include more providers. Complaints have consistently fallen since Ofcom started publishing this information in 2011. Ofcom also publishes research on fixed broadband speeds, and has just started to publish similar data on mobile broadband so that consumers can compare providers.

Supporting small businessesOfcom wants all small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to be able to take advantage of competition and innovation in the communications market, and receive regulatory protection where necessary. Yesterday’s Consumer Experience Report outlines Ofcom’s work to support SMEs, including:

  • New specialist research. In 2015 Ofcom will study the phone and broadband needs of SMEs. This will help Ofcom identify policies to deliver improved services. Ofcom will also assess how easily SMEs can choose and switch providers, and resolve complaints.
  • Working regionally with Ofcom’s Advisory Committees in the Nations to understand the experiences of small businesses throughout the UK. This will help shape future Ofcom’s policies to support small businesses at local and regional levels across the UK.
  • A business web portal has launched offering advice and support from Ofcom, specifically for businesses, about switching to a new provider, handling contracts and resolving complaints.

Research by Ofcom last year found that 85% of SMEs felt well-served by the communications market, but some had concerns around obtaining new services and their reliability. Following this research and a request for industry feedback, Ofcom is considering what policies might address these concerns, and expects to outline next steps in spring 2015.

Yesterday’s Consumer Experience Report and accompanying Policy Evaluation are available online.

NOTES FOR EDITORS:

Satisfaction with overall services from communications supplier

cer-14

  1. Postal targets: Ofcom requires Royal Mail to deliver 93% of all First Class retail items on the day after collection, and 98.5% of all Second Class retail items within three days of collection.

 

Channel website: https://www.icaew.com

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