Major UK telecoms providers commit to Ofcom's customer code of practice

It's the latest in a line of frequent policy announcements from the telecoms watchdog which aims to get customers the best deal

Ofcom has announced a set of commitments to which most telecoms companies have subscribed in a renewed effort to ensure customers are getting the best treatment.

The set of commitments, which resemble a code of conduct, act as a comprehensive set of measures that cover the rights customers should enjoy when purchasing packages from telcos.

Most major British companies have subscribed so far, including BT, EE, Giffgaff, O2, Plusnet, Post Office, Sky, TalkTalk, Tesco Mobile, Three, Virgin Media and Vodafone.

"Until now too many people have received a raw deal from their broadband or mobile phone supplier, said Caroline Normand, Which? director of advocacy. "So it's a positive step that all the major players have signed up to Ofcom's new fairness commitments.

"Confusing and unfair terms, poor customer support and overcharging are just some of the problems people tell us they have experienced," she added. "Providers now have the opportunity to make things right for their customers by committing to offer good service, fair treatment and a straightforward solution when things go wrong."

The commitments cover a range of rights customer should be entitled to. For example, providers must be aware of and understand the characteristics, circumstances and requirements of vulnerable customers, such as the disabled or recently bereaved. The commitment states that these people must be given fair treatment and equal access to services too.

Providers must also tailor their communications to customers in accordance with the way people generally react to information so the communications are more easily comprehensible and customer decisions are better-informed.

Ofcom also wants vendors to make it as easy to leave a contract as it is to sign up to one - additional barriers or hassle when exiting a contract must be ended in order to comply with the latest voluntary rules.

"I welcome the commitments the providers have made, and the action they're taking to ensure customers are treated fairly every step of the way," said Sharon White, Ofcom chief executive. 

"Great service cannot be optional. It has to be the norm," she added. "That hasn't always happened in the past in broadband and mobile services, but there is now a growing belief from providers that putting customers first is paramount."

Last month, Ofcom introduced a mandatory set of rules compelling broadband providers to be more up-front with their customers regarding the end of contracts and the best deals on offer.

The telecoms watchdog has made a wealth of policy introductions this year, all with a view to making the industry more customer-friendly. Ofcom said more than 20 million UK customers were paying for contracts that had expired, meaning that a better deal from the same provider was probably available.

The rules implemented in May stated that providers must inform their customers between 10 to 40 days prior to their contract ending and also provide them with annual updates relating to the provider's best offers.

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