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Ofcom wants to better protect consumers' interests by reforming the rules governing communications providers.

The watchdog has carried out a review of the industry rulebook - known as the General Conditions of Entitlement - and opened a consultation on its suggested changes.

Among the proposed reforms is the introduction of a new requirement for all communications providers to have clear and effective policies and processes for identifying vulnerable individuals.

Ofcom said this should ensure they are treated fairly and appropriately by communications providers.

In addition, the watchdog wants to strengthen the complaints handling process to enable grievances to be dealt with promptly and effectively, as well as ensure consumers have swift access to dispute resolution services and are kept informed about the progress of their complaint at all times.

Broadband and mobile providers could also be required to implement fair and transparent debt collection and disconnection practices, comparable to those that landline providers have in place.

Other proposed changes to the rules include creating a requirement for communications providers to give disabled users access to priority fault repair, third party bill management and accessible bills, as they only apply to mobile and landline services at the moment. 

Providers could also be expected to identify and block calls with invalid or non-diallable numbers, as they are often nuisance calls.

In addition, Ofcom wants to ban providers from charging for caller display facilities.

"We intend to clarify and simplify many of our rules, making them easier to understand and comply with," the watchdog said.

"We also propose to deregulate by lifting rules that are no longer required."

This comes as broadband providers face the prospect of further regulatory changes from the Advertising Standards Authority.

The watchdog believes allowing broadband providers to promote speeds that are achievable by just ten per cent of customers is potentially misleading and means the majority do not get the speeds they expected.

As a result, it wants to implement new rules that force companies to be more transparent about what customers can expect to receive.

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