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Communications Act 2003

Section 16: Consumer consultation

53.This section places OFCOM under a duty to establish and maintain effective arrangements for consulting with consumers, in the markets for services and facilities in relation to which OFCOM have functions, the markets for apparatus used in connection with those services and facilities and the markets for directories capable of being used in connection with an electronic communications network or service. This section implements Article 33(1) of the Universal Service Directive.

54.Such arrangements must include the setting up of an advisory panel to be known as the Consumer Panel. The principal responsibilities of the Consumer Panel will be to advise OFCOM and others on the interests of domestic and small business consumers in relation to the matters listed in subsection (3). Those matters include the provision of electronic communications networks and services and directory enquiry facilities; the making available of associated facilities; the supply of apparatus; service, quality and safety standards; financial and other terms of provision; complaints handling; dispute resolution and remedies; and the availability of information. The matters in subsection (3) about which the Panel are able to give advice do not, however, include matters that concern the contents of anything which is or may be broadcast or otherwise transmitted by means of electronic communications networks. OFCOM may also refer additional matters not included in subsection (3) to the Panel for advice. The Panel may publish such information as they think fit about their advice, the results of their research or the carrying out of their other functions.

  • *the meaning of domestic and small business consumer is given in subsection (10), and covers customers of a communications provider who are not themselves a communications provider, nor an undertaking for which more than 10 people work.

55.Subsection (7) places OFCOM under a duty, when carrying out their functions, to have regard to the advice and research of the Consumer Panel. OFCOM are also obliged to provide the Panel with such information as is necessary to enable the Panel to carry out their functions and such other information requested by the Panel as OFCOM can reasonably be expected to disclose (having regard particularly to confidentiality requirements). OFCOM must ensure that where they intend to disregard any of the Panel's published advice, they both publish this intention and inform the Panel of their reasons for disagreeing with this advice. Finally, the Consumer Panel must report on the carrying out of their functions on an annual basis and must publish their report as soon as practicable after it has been prepared.

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