SP Rules, OK

With the introduction of the Communications Act two years ago the mantra “anyone can be a service provider” was hailed. Behind this liberalisation is a series of 21 obligations on service providers and resellers. The General Conditions of Entitlement describe what network providers and communications providers are legally obliged to do – irrespective of their size or technology. Anyone billing services to individual consumers and very small business customers must; have a consumer and complaints code of practice, a sales and marketing code of practice and membership of an alternative dispute resolution scheme such as CISAS or Otelo.

How will the regulator know that your company exists? Well your details may be on the Retailer Identification (RID) register and you probably have a public website?

In May Ofcom tightened the rules on consumer and complaints codes and as soon as the obligation to have a sales and marketing code came into force it started two investigations, the details of which have been made public in a Competition Bulletin on www.ofcom.org.uk. At the FCS we have had calls from worried SPs who had received a “notification” from Ofcom wondering what to do. No one wants to be faced with the prospect of a fine equivalent to 10% of turnover. Be advised, “I did not know” is no defence.

During October the Fixed Service Providers Association (FSPA), played host to Ofcom, BT Wholesale and openreach at its annual Plenary event. Independently owned Service Providers and resellers have a crucial role to play in delivering competitiveness to the telecoms market as a result of the reorganisation in BT and its new regulatory agreement with Ofcom. There is a great opportunity for service providers to contribute to the design and development of the new Wholesale Line Rental 3 product and to become involved in major infrastructure changes that are coming about as BT Wholesale develops its IP-based 21st Century Network.

SPs must influence the changes to underpin their business future. However every company has the day job to do – selling services, growing the customer base, making money – very few have a separate regulatory department that can track regulation and product development.

Ash Potter, the FSPA co-chairman says there is an ever expanding list of industry working groups and consultative committees that have sprung up in the last few months. “Some of these groups meet twice a month – a major overhead for any individual company to attend every meeting.”

FSPA co-ordinates representation on behalf of SPs at the relevant groups and informs members of developments and key issues such changes to the forecasting regime, WLR pricing and the review of RIDs.