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Consumer protection

BT, along with all CPs, has a number of regulatory obligations to protect consumers in various ways. You can see details of these on the Our regulatory obligations page. But we also go above and beyond those obligations as we aim to lead the way and to be considered best in the industry for recognising and responding to consumers’ needs. The consumer market is highly competitive, and becoming more so, and we are very much in favour of ensuring that customers are able to take full advantage of the benefits of competition by engaging with the market and choosing the products and services that best meet their needs. This means ensuring that consumers are made fully aware of the options available to them in relation to price and quality of service.

BT, EE and Plusnet are signatories to Ofcom’s voluntary Code of Practice on Broadband Speeds. This ensures that customers are given an estimated range of speeds they are likely to receive when they sign up for fixed broadband service, as well as a right to cancel their contract free of charge if they fail to get the minimum speed promised and their provider is unable to put that right. A strengthened version of the Code comes into effect in March 2019, which Ofcom consulted on. We are supportive of the new version of the Code although we want to ensure that customers are not confused by the amount of information we are required to give them at point of sale.

Download BT’s consultation response Download BT’s consultation response - Broadband Speeds Codes of Practice: Proposals to revise the Residential and Business Voluntary Codes of Practice on Broadband Speeds

BT has played a leading role in developing a new voluntary industry code of practice for automatic compensation for fixed broadband and landline customers.

We had already recognised this as an important issue and we are happy to have helped to form a new set of rules which will mean customers can be certain about when they will automatically receive fair compensation in the event that things go wrong. We and the other signatories are currently carrying out the significant systems development needed to implement this new scheme, which will come into effect from March 2019. We’ve agreed minimum levels of compensation which we, and Ofcom, believe are fair. Customers will be able to make choices between rival companies, based on whether they offer automatic compensation or not, and what options they offer.

Compensation will be provided automatically when we are late in delivering a fixed line or broadband service, when it takes more than two working days to repair a fault that has caused a total loss of service, or when our engineer misses an appointment.

PDF download Download the Communications Providers’ Voluntary Code Of Practice For An Automatic Compensation Scheme- jointly written by BT, Sky, TalkTalk, Virgin Media and Zen Media.

BT supports Ofcom’s publication of an annual quality of service report that empowers customers to make informed switching and purchasing decisions, and drives service quality improvements by communications providers.

We believe that the following principles must be followed in order to realise a report that fulfils its stated purpose and is fair to industry, and we have worked with Ofcom and industry to ensure these principles are met.

1. The report must be useful for consumers: To help consumers make informed and effective purchasing decisions the information Ofcom reports must be clear, accessible, accurate and relevant. The decision to include and exclude particular metrics on the basis of their usefulness to consumers in making purchasing decisions should be evidence-based, i.e. Ofcom should be certain in advance which quality of service metrics are of real value and use to customers. Industry can provide insight into the type of metrics customers most value. Selecting an appropriate number of metrics is also important. Behavioural economics has demonstrated that “choice overload” can reduce consumers’ ability to make effective decisions and Ofcom should avoid the temptation of presenting customers with the maximum amount of data

2. The metrics used in the report must be truly comparable across CPs: Consumer information on quality of service can only serve the interests of consumer empowerment and competition if it is reliable, accurate and truly comparable.

3. Consumers and CPs must be certain of the report’s accuracy: Ofcom must ensure that the information presented to consumers is accurate since inaccurate data could result in distorted consumer behaviour and impact negatively on competition.

4. Ofcom requests of CPs must be proportionate: Ofcom’s information requests must be proportionate to what they are intended to achieve and Ofcom should be mindful of making requests that require CPs to commit significant resources at short notice.

 

We are supportive of Ofcom’s desire to encourage consumers to engage with communications markets. However we think that these markets already exhibit a high level of customer engagement, reflecting the gains from engaging, the variety of triggers which prompt engagement (e.g. handset upgrades) and the existing tools for understanding usage and making accurate comparisons. These, together with improvements to switching processes, have lowered barriers to search and switching.

We (and other operators) seek to enhance customer engagement because customers are more satisfied and loyal if they choose the services which best suit their needs and this provides an opportunity to deepen customer relationships and reduce churn (consistent with normal competitive dynamics).

The loyalty shown by satisfied customers should not, therefore, be confused with disengagement – customers who are happy with their service and their supplier may not be very active in regularly “shopping around”. Nor should metrics like tenure be misinterpreted given that long tenure customers may nonetheless be engaged (e.g. by switching tariffs to get the best value based on usage needs or by negotiating discounts).

Any decision by Ofcom to intervene must be made very carefully in order to avoid adverse consequences. Intrusive interventions such as price controls and forced migrations which directly control market outcomes and/or over-ride customer choices are very unlikely to be welfare enhancing.

PDF download Download BT’s response to Ofcom’s Call for Inputs

Ofcom has consulted on end-of-contract notifications, which it believes will help consumers make informed decisions about their current deal, exercise choice and be protected against unexpected or unwelcome changes. We already take steps to make sure all our customers receive information, advice and access to deals outside of their minimum contract period. We support Ofcom’s proposal to provide greater clarity and transparency for customers as they reach the end of their contract. We'll continue to work closely with Ofcom as we provide clearer information to our customers about the best deals across landline, broadband and mobile when contracts are coming to an end.

PDF download Download BT’s response to Ofcom’s consultation 

Citizens Advice have issued a super-complaint to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) about what they term a ‘loyalty penalty’, highlighting their concerns that people who stay with their communications provider can end up paying significantly more than new customers. We want to make sure consumers are duly protected but warn against assumptions that differential pricing is automatically detrimental to consumer welfare. We offer considerable evidence of how the market works in practice and what we do to communicate and protect consumers. We also highlight the sophistication of the fixed and mobile markets and the differences between these and other sectors. And we call on the CMA to remit the matter to Ofcom, who is already very active in this area.

PDF download Download BT’s response to the super-complaint 

 

The Government has also addressed themes relating to consumer engagement in its Consumer Green Paper.

PDF download Download BT's response - Modernising Consumer Markets – Consumer Green Paper

At BT we’re committed to treating all our customers fairly and with respect, including those who are vulnerable.

We know that there are lots of different factors or life events which may cause vulnerability, whether it be long-term or on a temporary basis. For example, it could be because of age, a physical or learning disability or difficulty in communicating. We also understand that challenging circumstances and events such as bereavement or separation from a partner may mean that our customers need some extra support to help keep them connected while they get back on their feet.

We will endeavour to offer customers the right level of help and the most appropriate products and services to suit their needs. Our customer support team will always try to identify specific needs to provide specialised assistance where it’s needed.

We have a wealth of information and advice on how we can help customers get the most out of the products and service we offer, whether it’s helping to keep in touch with friends and family, keeping on top of bills or watching the latest blockbusters. Find out more at the BT Including You site.