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Communications Act 2003

Status:

This is the original version (as it was originally enacted).

Functions for the protection of consumers

14Consumer research

(1)OFCOM must make arrangements for ascertaining—

(a)the state of public opinion from time to time about the manner in which electronic communications networks and electronic communications services are provided;

(b)the state of public opinion from time to time about the manner in which associated facilities are made available;

(c)the experiences of consumers in the markets for electronic communications services and associated facilities, in relation to the manner in which electronic communications networks and electronic communications services are provided and associated facilities made available;

(d)the experiences of such consumers in relation to the handling, by communications providers and by persons making such facilities available, of complaints made to them by such consumers;

(e)the experiences of such consumers in relation to the resolution of disputes with communications providers or with persons making associated facilities available; and

(f)the interests and experiences of such consumers in relation to other matters that are incidental to, or are otherwise connected with, their experiences of the provision of electronic communications networks and electronic communications services or of the availability of associated facilities.

(2)The matters to which the arrangements must relate do not include the incidence or investigation of interference (within the meaning of the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949 (c. 54)) with wireless telegraphy.

(3)The matters to which the arrangements must relate do not (except so far as authorised or required by subsections (4) to (6)) include public opinion with respect to—

(a)the contents of anything broadcast or otherwise published by means of an electronic communications network; or

(b)the experiences or interests of consumers in any market for electronic communications services with respect to anything so broadcast or published.

(4)OFCOM must make arrangements for ascertaining—

(a)the state of public opinion from time to time concerning programmes included in television and radio services;

(b)any effects of such programmes, or of other material published by means of the electronic media, on the attitudes or behaviour of persons who watch, listen to or receive the programmes or material; and

(c)so far as necessary for the purpose mentioned in subsection (5), the types of programmes that members of the public would like to see included in television and radio services.

(5)That purpose is the carrying out by OFCOM of their functions under Chapter 4 of Part 3 of this Act.

(6)OFCOM must make arrangements for the carrying out of research into the following—

(a)the matters mentioned in section 11(1);

(b)matters relating to, or connected with, the setting of standards under section 319 of this Act;

(c)matters relating to, or connected with, the observance of those standards by persons providing television and radio services;

(d)matters relating to, or connected with, the prevention of unjust or unfair treatment in programmes included in such services; and

(e)matters relating to, or connected with, the prevention of unwarranted infringements of privacy resulting from activities carried on for the purposes of such services.

(7)Arrangements made by OFCOM for the purposes of this section may include arrangements for the carrying out of research in one or more of the following ways—

(a)by members or employees of OFCOM;

(b)by the Content Board;

(c)in accordance with arrangements made by that Board;

(d)by persons who are neither members nor employees of OFCOM.

(8)In this section references to the publication of anything by means of the electronic media are references to its being—

(a)broadcast so as to be available for reception by members of the public or of a section of the public; or

(b)distributed by means of an electronic communications network to members of the public or of a section of the public.

(9)This section does not restrict OFCOM’s power to make any arrangements they consider to be incidental or conducive to the carrying out of any of their functions.

15Duty to publish and take account of research

(1)It shall be the duty of OFCOM—

(a)to publish the results of any research carried out by them or on their behalf under section 14; and

(b)to consider and, to such extent as they think fit, to take account of the results of such research in the carrying out of their functions.

(2)OFCOM are not required under this section—

(a)to publish any matter that is confidential in accordance with subsection (3) or (4); or

(b)to publish anything that it would not be reasonably practicable to publish without disclosing such a matter.

(3)A matter is confidential under this subsection if—

(a)it relates specifically to the affairs of a particular body; and

(b)publication of that matter would or might, in OFCOM’s opinion, seriously and prejudicially affect the interests of that body.

(4)A matter is confidential under this subsection if—

(a)it relates to the private affairs of an individual; and

(b)publication of that matter would or might, in OFCOM’s opinion, seriously and prejudicially affect the interests of that individual.

(5)The publication of research under this section must be in such manner as OFCOM consider appropriate.

16Consumer consultation

(1)It shall be the duty of OFCOM to establish and maintain effective arrangements for consultation about the carrying out of their functions with—

(a)consumers in the markets for the services and facilities in relation to which OFCOM have functions;

(b)consumers in the markets for apparatus used in connection with any such services or facilities;

(c)consumers in the markets for directories capable of being used in connection with the use of an electronic communications network or electronic communications service.

(2)The arrangements must include the establishment and maintenance of a panel of persons (in this Act referred to as “the Consumer Panel”) with the function of advising both—

(a)OFCOM; and

(b)such other persons as the Panel think fit.

(3)The arrangements must secure that the matters about which the Consumer Panel are able to give advice include the interests of domestic and small business consumers in relation to the following matters—

(a)the provision of electronic communications networks;

(b)the provision and making available of the services and facilities mentioned in subsection (4);

(c)the supply of apparatus designed or adapted for use in connection with any such services or facilities;

(d)the supply of directories capable of being used in connection with the use of an electronic communications network or electronic communications service;

(e)the financial and other terms on which such services or facilities are provided or made available, or on which such apparatus or such a directory is supplied;

(f)standards of service, quality and safety for such services, facilities, apparatus and directories;

(g)the handling of complaints made by persons who are consumers in the markets for such services, facilities, apparatus or directories to the persons who provide the services or make the facilities available, or who are suppliers of the apparatus or directories;

(h)the resolution of disputes between such consumers and the persons who provide such services or make such facilities available, or who are suppliers of such apparatus or directories;

(i)the provision of remedies and redress in respect of matters that form the subject-matter of such complaints or disputes;

(j)the information about service standards and the rights of consumers that is made available by persons who provide or make available such services or facilities, or who are suppliers of such apparatus or directories;

(k)any other matter appearing to the Panel to be necessary for securing effective protection for persons who are consumers in the markets for any such services, facilities, apparatus or directories.

(4)Those services and facilities are—

(a)electronic communications services;

(b)associated facilities;

(c)directory enquiry facilities;

(d)a service consisting in the supply of information for use in responding to directory enquiries or of an electronic programme guide; and

(e)every service or facility not falling within any of the preceding paragraphs which is provided or made available to members of the public—

(i)by means of an electronic communications network; and

(ii)in pursuance of agreements entered into between the person by whom the service or facility is provided or made available and each of those members of the public.

(5)The matters about which the Consumer Panel are to be able to give advice do not include any matter that concerns the contents of anything which is or may be broadcast or otherwise transmitted by means of electronic communications networks.

(6)The arrangements made by OFCOM under this section must also secure that the Consumer Panel are able, in addition to giving advice on the matters mentioned in subsection (3), to do each of the following—

(a)at the request of OFCOM, to carry out research for OFCOM in relation to any of the matters in relation to which OFCOM have functions under section 14;

(b)to make arrangements for the carrying out of research into such other matters appearing to the Panel to be relevant to the carrying out of the Panel’s functions as they think fit;

(c)to give advice to OFCOM in relation to any matter referred to the Panel by OFCOM for advice;

(d)to publish such information as the Panel think fit about the advice they give, about the carrying out of the Panel’s other functions and about the results of research carried out by them or on their behalf.

(7)It shall be the duty of OFCOM, in the carrying out of their functions, to consider and, to such extent as they think appropriate, to have regard to—

(a)any advice given to OFCOM by the Consumer Panel; and

(b)any results notified to OFCOM of any research undertaken by that Panel.

(8)It shall also be the duty of OFCOM (subject to subsection (9))—

(a)to provide the Consumer Panel with all such information as, having regard, in particular, to the need to preserve commercial confidentiality, OFCOM consider appropriate to disclose to the Panel for the purpose of enabling the Panel to carry out their functions; and

(b)to provide the Panel with all such further information as the Panel may require.

(9)OFCOM are not required to provide information by virtue of subsection (8)(b) if, having regard to—

(a)the need to preserve commercial confidentiality, and

(b)any other matters that appear to OFCOM to be relevant,

it is reasonable for OFCOM to refuse to disclose it to the Panel.

(10)It shall be the duty of OFCOM, in the case of any advice or opinion received from and published by the Panel which OFCOM propose to disregard in whole or in part, or with which OFCOM disagree in whole or in part—

(a)to ensure that the Panel know OFCOM’s reasons for disregarding or disagreeing with the advice or opinion; and

(b)to ensure that those reasons are or have been published in such manner as OFCOM consider appropriate for bringing them to the attention of persons who are aware of the Panel’s advice or opinion.

(11)The Consumer Panel must—

(a)as soon as practicable after the end of the period of twelve months beginning with the commencement of this section, and

(b)as soon as practicable after the end of each subsequent period of twelve months,

prepare a report on the carrying out of their functions in that period.

(12)The Consumer Panel must publish each report—

(a)as soon as practicable after its preparation is complete; and

(b)in such manner as they consider appropriate.

(13)In this section—

  • “domestic and small business consumer” means a person who—

    (a)

    is a consumer in the market for services or facilities mentioned in subsection (4) or for apparatus designed or adapted for use in connection with any such services or facilities; but

    (b)

    is neither—

    (i)

    a communications provider or a person who makes associated facilities available; nor

    (ii)

    a person who is a consumer in the market in respect of an undertaking carried on by him for which more than ten individuals work (whether as employees or volunteers or otherwise);

  • “electronic programme guide” means a service which consists of—

    (a)

    the listing or promotion, or both the listing and the promotion, of some or all of the programmes included in any one or more programme services the providers of which are or include persons other than the provider of the guide; and

    (b)

    a facility for obtaining access, in whole or in part, to the programme service or services listed or promoted in the guide.

17Membership etc. of the Consumer Panel

(1)The members of the Consumer Panel shall be appointed by OFCOM and shall comprise a chairman and such other members as OFCOM may determine.

(2)The approval of the Secretary of State is required for the appointment of a person to be the chairman or to be another member of the Panel.

(3)In appointing persons to be members of the Consumer Panel, OFCOM must secure that, for each of the following parts of the United Kingdom—

(a)England,

(b)Scotland,

(c)Wales, and

(d)Northern Ireland,

there is a different member of the Panel capable of representing the interests and opinions of persons living in that part of the United Kingdom.

(4)In appointing persons to be members of the Consumer Panel, OFCOM must secure, so far as practicable, that the Panel are able to give informed advice about matters referable to each of the following—

(a)the interests of persons living in rural areas;

(b)the interests of persons living in urban areas;

(c)the interests of small businesses;

(d)the interests of disadvantaged persons, persons with low incomes and persons with disabilities; and

(e)the interests of the elderly.

(5)The validity of any proceedings of the Consumer Panel shall not be affected by any failure by OFCOM to comply with subsection (3) or (4).

(6)It shall be the duty of the Consumer Panel, in carrying out their functions, to have regard to the following interests—

(a)the interests of persons from the different parts of the United Kingdom; and

(b)the interests specified in subsection (4).

(7)A person shall be disqualified from being the chairman or a member of the Consumer Panel if he is a member or employee of OFCOM.

(8)The chairman and every member of the Consumer Panel—

(a)shall be appointed for a fixed period specified in the terms of his appointment but shall be eligible for re-appointment at the end of that period; and

(b)may at any time be removed from the Panel by a notice given by OFCOM with the approval of the Secretary of State.

(9)OFCOM may pay to the chairman and to any other member of the Consumer Panel such remuneration and allowances as OFCOM consider appropriate.

18Committees and other procedure of the Consumer Panel

(1)The Consumer Panel may make such arrangements as they think fit for committees established by the Panel to give advice to them about matters relating to the carrying out of the Panel’s functions.

(2)The Consumer Panel may make such other arrangements for regulating their own procedure, and for regulating the procedure of the committees established by them, as they think fit.

(3)Those arrangements may include arrangements as to quorums and as to the making of decisions by a majority.

(4)The committees established by the Panel may include committees the membership of which includes persons (including persons constituting a majority of the committee) who are not members of the Panel.

(5)The membership of every committee established by the Consumer Panel must contain at least one person who is a member of the Panel.

(6)Where a person who is not a member of the Consumer Panel is a member of a committee established by the Panel, OFCOM may pay to that person such remuneration and expenses as OFCOM may determine.

19Power to amend remit of Consumer Panel

(1)The Secretary of State may by order modify subsection (3) of section 16 so as to add to the matters about which the Consumer Panel are required to be able to give advice.

(2)Before making an order under this section the Secretary of State must consult OFCOM and such other persons as he thinks fit.

(3)No order is to be made containing provision authorised by this section unless a draft of the order has been laid before Parliament and approved by a resolution of each House.

(4)The power to amend or revoke an order under this section does not include power to provide for a matter to cease to be a matter about which the Consumer Panel are required to be able to give advice.

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