Ofcom is seeking views on proposals to update and revise its existing Enforcement Guidelines.
Ofcom is the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries. In this role, it needs to take enforcement action in the interests of citizens and consumers, and where appropriate to promote competition. Ofcom also has concurrent powers with the Competition and Markets Authority to investigate suspected infringements of competition law.
On 23 January 2017, Ofcom published a consultation on revising its enforcement guidelines, on how it handles competition and regulatory complaints, and related documents. Ofcom is consulting on changes to its Enforcement Guidelines, which set out how Ofcom investigates compliance with and approach enforcement of regulatory requirements relating to electronic communications networks and services, postal services, consumer protection legislation, competition law and certain competition-related conditions in broadcast licences.
The consultation process will allow stakeholders to submit views on Ofcom’s proposed changes by 5pm on 6 March 2017. Following this period of consultation, Ofcom plans to publish a statement in spring 2017. The consultation documents are available here.
The new proposed procedures are outlined in the following draft documents published alongside the consultation:
- Enforcement Guidelines for regulatory and consumer protection investigations;
- Enforcement Guidelines for Competition Act investigations;
- Procedures for investigating breaches of competition-related conditions in Broadcasting Act licences; and
- Advice for complainants and whistleblowers.
One of the highlights of Ofcom’s proposal is the new procedures for settlement of regulatory investigations which aims to purse more settlements to end probes. The new system would be used when the subject is prepared to admit it has breached relevant regulatory requirements and accept that the reminder of the investigation will follow a streamlined administrative procedure. However, there will still be a formal and published finding of contravention against it.
Public consultations on Ofcom’s proposals represent an extremely useful tool for market operators to ensure that their views and needs are taken into account by the UK regulator when preparing proposals that have a concrete impact on the communications industries.