The UK Regulators’ Network has today launched an advisory leaflet to help ensure vulnerable consumers get the help they need to access essential services.
Produced through a collaborative effort between Ofgem, Ofcom, Ofwat, the ORR and the CAA, the leaflet highlights a range of free support services offered by utility, telecommunications and public transport providers.
The UKRN website gives details of how to get braille, audio and large print versions of the leaflet.
On 12th March Consumers International (CI) published its Consumer Agenda for Fair Mobile Services ahead of World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) on Saturday 15 March.
In the run up to 15 March, consumer groups will be making one big call on mobile phone service providers to demand better services for the 7 billion mobile users across the globe.
Mobile rip offs are commonplace – from holidaymakers being stung by four figure roaming bills abroad, to customers tricked into paying to receive text messages. With smartphones set to function as a remote control for more and more aspects of our lives, consumer groups believe now is the time to ensure big mobile companies are held to account for unfair, substandard services.
In consultation with consumer groups around the world, CI has drawn up a Consumer Agenda for Fair Mobile Services, which outlines what the consumer rights movement wants to see changed. This includes demands that telecom companies:
•provide consumers with access to an affordable, reliable service
•provide consumers with fair contracts explained in clear, complete and accessible language
•provide consumers with fair and transparent billing
•provide consumers with security and power over their own information, and
Low levels of consumer switching characterise many essential services markets (think current accounts or energy suppliers) and mean that competition alone isn’t sufficient to drive improvements. Two new reports from Consumer Futures have tackled this issue head on, introducing the concept of a new form of intermediary.
Next Generation Intermediaries (NGIs) are services that enable consumers to get better outcomes from complex markets by doing very little themselves – effectively outsourcing engagement to a new kind of intermediary service that works on their behalf. They would empower any consumer who lacks the time or inclination to trawl around for a better energy, financial services, or mobile phone package to instruct the intermediary find the offer that best meets the consumer’s declared criteria, and then to instigate and oversee the switch for them.
Let’s call it ‘do it for me’. It envisages a world where any consumer who lacks the time or inclination to trawl around for a better energy, financial services, or mobile phone package can instruct a new kind of intermediary service to ‘do it for me’. What’s more, once that service identifies the offer that best meets a consumer’s declared criteria, the consumer can again say ‘do it for me’ and have the service instigate and oversee the switch to the provider of that offer. And the consumer can then keep saying ‘do it for me’ in relation to related services that require decision support.
This paper provides an overview of the Next Generation Intermediary (NGI) concept – outlining the potential that NGI type services offer and the qualities that set them apart from established intermediary services. It provides an overview of how NGIs would work in practice, the technological trends that make this kind of approach possible now, and some thoughts on who might come to offer NGI services.
With evidence from five EU countries (including the UK), this paper examines whether there is a digital divide in the use of the internet in general and for specific purposes (leisure, improving human capital and obtaining goods and services).
The main finding is that, for those who have access to the Internet, the income-based digital divide in internet use has been reversed in the sense that low-income internet users spend more time on the internet than high-income users. This relationship is particularly strong for time spent on leisure online. In addition, the report finds that employment status does not change the effect of income on internet use and discusses several possible explanations for this result.