The CMA has given critical support to Ofcom’s ‘Strategic Review of Telecommunications Phase 1 consultation’, but would like to see changes in the way it polices pricing and service availability to all industry players by BT Wholesale.
There needs to be changes between the business relationship of BT Wholesale and BT Retail, says the CMA. Although competitors to BT Retail are supposed to get the same treatment from BT Wholesale when it comes to pricing, there is suspicion that BT Retail can sometimes enjoy better procurement times, better terms and conditions, and superior quality of service.
The CMA also has concerns about the apparent lack of a business user voice in Ofcom’s deliberations. The CMA response to an Ofcom consultation on the way it will go forward after its establishment last year, also addresses: Ofcom’s new complaints process, the way the organisation can deliver real joined-up regulation, staff shortages and achieving targets at Ofcom, pricing to business consumers, and the way the regulator can benchmark itself against other national telecoms regulators.
The CMA’s written response states: “As a major stakeholder in the industry we look forward to assisting Ofcom in its task by putting forward the views and concerns of business users at every appropriate opportunity.”
However, the CMA is concerned about Ofcom’s stance on complaints, where the regulator states in its strategy that it intends setting “a higher threshold for pursuing disputes and competition complaints than has been applied in the past”. The CMA says such a position may cause legitimate complaints to fall by the wayside.
“It appears that the new system is too heavily biased in favour of the larger suppliers at the operational and financial expense of the small fry”, says the CMA.
On the question of Ofcom truly addressing all user concerns of the converged communications outlets Ofcom now seeks to cover, the CMA believes it cannot do this without extensive consultation with business users, and detailed interoperability studies into the various communications technologies under review. Such requirements are not spelt out in the Ofcom plan under consultation.
The CMA also believes Ofcom is currently short-staffed and may not be able to meet some of its targets. Additionally, the Ofcom website is also lacking in detail and resources when compared to the previous Oftel website when it comes to telecoms issues, says the CMA.
The CMA also calls on Ofcom to benchmark itself against the performance of other national regulators, and also against the likes of BT when it comes to comparing what it spends on regulatory matters and the extensive amounts spent by the incumbent, along with the other suppliers.
“The CMA supports the overall thrust of the Ofcom’s annual plan, with a few caveats”, says the CMA.
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