Ofcom, the new regulatory authority in the United Kingdom, has today published a discussion document, entitled "Consumer protection for Voice over Broadband", and will be holding a workshop on 25 Feb 2004 to discuss it with interested parties.
The document indicates, on a side note, that a further consultation will soon be opened, putting forward the number range 056 as a specific range for VoIP services which do not constitute "PATS" (publicly accessible telephone service).
The discussion document is only 9 pages long, and focuses specifically on raising consumer awareness about the limitations of certain VoIP services in terms of access to emergency services, special measures for end-users with disabilities and directory enquiries.
At the forthcoming workshop, Ofcom is seeking to facilitate a discussion on how best consumers (purchasers of VoIP as well as other consumers) can be informed about the limitations of VoIP services, and has put the following questions on the agenda:
- Do all potential users need to be made aware of all the limitations to their VOB service e.g. inability to access directory enquiries or services for end users with disabilities? Should this be at the point of purchase or the point of use?
- Do all potential users need to be made aware that a VoB service does not offer access to 999? Should this be at the point of purchase or the point of use?
- How could VoB service providers ensure their consumers are aware of the limitations of their service? For example, would appropriate promotional material and labelling of handsets help?
- Which solution is most appropriate: self regulation, co regulation or formal regulation? Or is there another solution?
- Is non-guaranteed access to 999 better than none at all?
The full text of the discussion document can be accessed by clicking here.