On June 28th 2017, Ofcom published a statement setting out changes made to their Enforcement Guidelines (the “Guidelines”).
The Guidelines explain which procedures Ofcom follows when carrying out regulatory enforcement relating to telecoms and postal services, consumer protection legislation, competition law, and certain competition-related conditions in broadcast licences. Alongside their statement, Ofcom published the final versions of the Guidelines (for regulatory and consumer protection as well as competition investigations), procedures for investigations of competition-related conditions in Broadcasting Act licences; and advice for complainants and whistleblowers.
The changes to the guidelines are intended to:
cover a number of new enforcement powers taken on by Ofcom since 2012;
give clearer guidance about the progress and outcome of investigations;
clarify how Ofcom expects its cases to be publicised; and
update guidance to include new procedures about how regulatory investigations are settled.
Ofcom’s broader aim is to increase transparency and clarity as to how their investigations and enforcement processes are run, so that clear and practical advice is available to stakeholders who may wish to make a complaint about potential breaches of regulations. Ofcom’s changes focus on clarifying their approach to the initial assessment phase, improving the timing and transparency of their enforcement work and how they deal with and potentially disclose confidential information, detailing their information gathering processes, detailing their decision-making process under the Competition Act, and clarifying their approach to settlement on certain issues.
The new Guidelines are also designed to support enforcement actions under the Digital Economy Act 2017 (the “Act”), and ensure the Guidelines are consistent with applicable legislation. The Guidelines now reference Ofcom’s new enforcement powers from the Act, which includes mobile phone providers’ duties and wireless telegraphy issues. The revised Guidelines take into account that not all new powers are yet in force.
Click here to read Ofcom’s full statement.