Government proposes new consumer advocate to protect people from 'unfair' telco practices

The advocate will be separate from Ofcom and focus on telecoms services aimed at consumers

The government is poised to create an independent 'consumer advocate' focussed on the telecoms sector that will protect broadband and mobile customers from unfair practices.

According to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), the new advocate, once its creation has been legislated, will undertake a suite of activities to ensure consumers are treated in the right way by broadband, pay-TV, mobile and landline providers.

This will include researching areas where consumer experiences can be improved, representing consumers in important policy and regulatory debates, such as the roll out of full-fibre broadband, and providing direct support and advice to consumers, notably those who are most vulnerable to being confused by the complexities in the consumer telecoms market.

The government also plans for the advocate to work with the telecoms industry to help "improve customer outcomes", such as working together on industry best practices. It will also be used to support the government's digital connectivity ambitions to ensure consumers adopt the fastest and improved services and get a good deal while doing so.

While Ofcom tends to be the watchdog that aims to support consumer rights as well as keep the UK's telecoms industry in check, the creation of a separate advocate looks to build upon Ofcom's efforts but with a consumer focus.

"It's clear that some mobile and broadband customers are vulnerable to unfair business practices," said minister for digital Margot James.

"We've already strengthened Ofcom's powers to improve outcomes for consumers but a strong, independent consumer champion will empower customers and hold telecoms companies to account, as well as working with them to drive improvements in their services."

"The consumer advocate will help deliver a Britain that works for everyone putting more money into the pockets of ordinary working people," she concluded.

There's currently no timetable for the establishment of this new entity, however, DCMS will hold a consultation over the summer that will consider issues including how the advocate will be created and funded.

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