1/23/2008 11:06:00 AM
Raising the standard
Somewhere in the bowels of Riverside House a small but doughty band of dealers met with Ofcom last week to put their views to the regulator. They deserve a round of applause. This is just the kind of thing the industry does far too infrequently. Even the mighty operators who run so much of the industry seldom converse systematically with the powers that be.
But it took courage as well as co-ordination to tie down a meeting and put across their views. In the feudalistic mobile industry such relatively small fry generally do not speak publicly against their paymasters. To poke their heads above the parapet is to risk having them lopped off - troublesome dealers are all too easy to cull in the current climate. We don’t know if the IMPDA representatives went so far as attending in disguise, but (apart from chairman Chris Caudle) they are definitely bent on concealing their identities for fear of reprisal. And little wonder. They pinned the blame for poor-quality cashback squarely on operators in terms that are tantamount to accusing them of conspiring against customers. They also railed against the unfair trading practices that networks have allowed to take root. These claims may be old hat in mobile circles, but they were evidently fresh to Ofcom, and operators will not be amused to hear them aired.
So where do things go now? That hangs on Ofcom’s considered opinions once it has digested the dealers’ views. It also depends on whether the likes of distributors pluck up the courage to reinforce dealers’ claims. As the industry’s middlemen they always risk being shot from both sides. Distribution is a tricky old game right now, and logic suggests they have never been less likely to court controversy. Don’t count on the cavalry appearing over the hill.