Protecting vulnerable consumers in the telecoms sector: Citizens Advice response to Ofcom’s proposed guide for treating vulnerable consumers fairly
We are pleased to respond to Ofcom’s consultation on its proposed ‘‘Treating vulnerable consumers fairly’ guide. We know from delivering frontline support, and from our research, that essential service markets aren’t working for vulnerable consumers.
In our recent research looking at the support needs of people with mental health problems, we found that people with mental health problems said that telecoms firms are the least likely to consider their needs compared with other essential services. In the mobile phone market, 11% of 2 people have disclosed their mental health problem to their provider, but only 1% have received support.
We therefore welcome Ofcom’s focus on ensuring vulnerable consumers are treated fairly. Generally, we are pleased with the contents of the guide, as it addresses key areas where we know vulnerable telecoms customers are experiencing harm. However, we’re concerned that, given the status of this proposed document as guidance, firms might choose not to act on it, or might make only superficial changes. We would like to see Ofcom update this guidance to include rules to prevent the harm vulnerable consumers are currently experiencing in the telecoms sector.
We would also like to see Ofcom provide a detailed account of it’s approach to monitoring, compliance and enforcement. This should include the publication of an annual report assessing outcomes for vulnerable consumers against outcomes for consumers who are not vulnerable on the basis of data provided by telecoms firms.