The General Conditions of Entitlement (General Conditions) are the regulatory conditions, published by the UK communications regulator Ofcom, which apply to all providers of "electronic communications networks" and "electronic communications services" that operate in the UK (Communications Providers).
Generally, no specific licence is required to provide an electronic communications network or service. Communications Providers are generally authorised, provided they comply with the General Conditions.
Ofcom began consulting on amending the General Conditions in December 2016. The revised rules take effect from 1 October 2018.
The new rules replace the old with a comprehensive new set of conditions, designed to more closely reflect Ofcom's current priorities and concerns. The new General Conditions aim to be both simpler and clearer for Communications Providers to follow.
While many of the new requirements are similar to the existing rules, there are some key changes to be aware of:
- There are now stronger rules on complaints handling. Communications Providers must deal with consumer complaints faster and more effectively than under the previous regime.
- There is an increased focus on vulnerable customers, with Communications Providers having to put policies in place that will consider the specific needs of these consumers and ensure they are fairly and appropriately treated.
- Rules on calling line identification facilities have been extended. New rules aim to improve the accuracy and availability of these services and ensure that calls to the emergency services are never blocked. Importantly, under condition C6, relevant Communications Providers must provide calling line identification facilities by default (unless they can demonstrate that it is not technically feasible or economically viable to do so), so generally this should not be an add-on, paid for service.
- A new rule is in place, designed to address nuisance calls by blocking calls with invalid calling line identification data.
- Ofcom's power to withdraw number allocations has been strengthened to allow recycling of unused numbers, as well as providing a way to deal with numbers which are persistently misused (including to make nuisance calls).
- Ofcom has provided guidance about the procedures for terminating contracts with consumers (under new condition C1.3) and has updated the 2003 emergency planning direction.
- The rules applicable to VoIP providers have been consolidated in the General Conditions.
What do you need to do?
The new General Conditions will apply automatically to all Communications Providers, but the conditions which apply depend on the type of electronic communications network or service being provided. If you are providing an electronic communications network or service, you should review your existing policies and procedures to confirm if they are adequate, or if steps need to be taken to comply with the new rules.
An unofficial consolidated version of the new General Conditions is available to view on Ofcom's website (accessible here).
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