Big business interests in the telecomms sector will continue to obstruct regulatory changes that benefit consumers unless Ofcom is granted more power, a loose affiliation of tech sector players and consumer watchdogs claims.
In proposals supported by uSwitch, Three, TalkTalk, Which? and Consumer Futures have called for fundamental reform of the industry regulator and less leeway for appeals from providers in an email sent to Culture Secretary Maria Miller and Business Secretary Vince Cable.
According to Three, currently Ofcom’s moves to make things “simpler and easier for consumers are frustrated by big companies’ lawyers challenging its decisions”, necessitating an overhaul of the appeals process and "new rules to make it harder for reforms to be blocked on technical details”.
The letter states: “There are significant concerns that under the current regime, Ofcom's decisions can be derailed too easily, through technical challenges that ignore the substance of the regulator's judgments.
"The routine use of legal challenges has had a chilling effect on policy. It diverts time and money into legal disputes and away from good regulation. This is bad news for competition, for the industry, and for consumers."
As ballast for its case, the group cites the example of Ofcom’s 2007 ruling that mobile phone customers should be able to switch provider and transfer their existing number without permission from their old operator.
Although seven years have passed, Britons are still unable to bypass their old provider - a situation that Three, TalkTalk and their partners blame on a legal challenge started by Vodafone and backed by O2, Orange and T-Mobile.