Ofcom sets out MTR proposals


Industry regulator Ofcom laid out a number of proposals on Wednesday on how the price mobile networks charge to connect calls to each other’s networks (mobile termination rates) should be set.

The current charges are set until 2011 and Ofcom has launched a review to examine how they should be set after that period. Ofcom said lower rates could allow networks to launch new, more competitive packages to benefit consumers.

It set out six options, ranging from maintaining the current system to more “radical alternatives” such as where the customer’s own network is responsible for all costs of making and receiving phone calls.

Ofcom has also ruled to reduce the time consumers will have to wait to have their telecoms disputes resolved independently.

Currently, consumers must allow 12 weeks for their communications provider to resolve their problem before taking their complaint to a dispute resolution service.

New rules which come into force on September 1 mean consumers can use the dispute resolution service eight weeks after making an initial complaint to the communications provider.

Ofcom said it received thousands of calls each week from consumers who are dissatisfied with their provider. “A communications provider should be allowed a reasonable amount of time to resolve a consumer’s complaint but our research shows that complaints are almost as likely to remain unresolved at 12 weeks as they are at eight,” it said.

There are currently two free Ofcom-approved schemes independent resolution schemes, CISAS and Otelo.  Communications providers must abide by any resolutions spelt out by the schemes or risk a fine of up to 10 per cent of their annual turnover.
Meanwhile, Ofcom has announced that there would be no pay increase for all staff in 2009/10. The members of its executive committee have agreed that they should not be considered for a bonus this year.

Ofcom said its remuneration committee took into account the negative rate of inflation, the pressure on public finances and the economic circumstances of the many companies within the communications sector where similar action on pay has been taken. The committee said it wanted to ensure that Ofcom reflected the circumstances of the companies and taxpayers that fund the organisation.

Savings made as a result of these and other measures will be returned to the taxpayer and to stakeholder companies.