Consumers whose phones are stolen could have their bills capped to stop excessive charges, under new proposals outlined today by the Government.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport issued a wide-ranging document this morning outlining proposals for Britain's digital future. Amid proposals for spectrum and infrastructure deployment, the Government has also laid out plans for tackling so-called 'bill shock', when consumers are excessively charged after exceeding their monthly tariffs.
The Government said it is setting up a code of conduct with regulator Ofcom that will outline steps to protect consumers from bill shock. While the code will be voluntary, ministers said it would be 'strict'. Among its suggestions is introducing a maximum liability for consumers whose phones are stolen, similar to what happens with credit or debit cards.
The Government repeated measures already spelled out by Ofcom that could tackle the issue, including introducing text alerts to warn people they are approaching their contract limit, setting up account management tools or spelling out steps consumers could take to avoid these charges.
Elsewhere in the report, the Government said it was amending legislation to sharpen up spectrum policy, including stripping spectrum from its primary user if it is lying dormant. It will also give incentives to spectrum holders to surrender their radio-frequency if it is being underused. Ofcom will come under greater Government control when it comes to running spectrum auctions.
The Government also repeated plans to cut red tape that stops infrastructure such as masts being delayed through planning refusals or legal issues. It said it will also make customers of bundled packages, so-called triple play or quad-play deals, easier to change provider.The plans will come into force through a mix of legislation and consultation with interested parties. The Government is intending to speak to mobile operators about the bill shock code of practice.
Culture Secretary Maria Miller said: 'The communications industry has undergone change at an unprecedented pace over the last decade. In this digital age we must ensure the needs of the consumer are not lost in the dash for progress and the changes we are making will put the British public at the heart of the sector. The Government will ensure consumers are protected from potentially harmful content, soaring costs and contracts that don’t meet their needs.'
Author: Graeme Neill