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Enforcement report

A report on Ofcom's approach to enforcement and recent activity

Executive summary

1.1 The purpose of this report is to explain how Ofcom uses its enforcement powers, the benefits we bring to citizens and consumers, report on recent activity and set out our priorities going forward.

1.2 Ofcom takes enforcement action across a number of industry sectors and is able to use a range of statutory powers granted by, amongst others, the Communications Act 2003, the Competition Act 1998, the Enterprise Act 2002, the Broadcasting Act 1990, the Broadcasting Act 1996, EU Regulations and the Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006.

1.3 We take enforcement action for the benefit of citizens and consumer to:

  • encourage competition;
  • resolve regulatory disputes between communications providers;
  • enforce consumer protection law;
  • encourage compliance;
  • protect members of the public from the inclusion of offensive and harmful material, from unfair treatment and from unwarranted infringements of privacy in television and radio programmes;
  • protect and manage the radio spectrum.

1.4 Ofcom has responsibility for setting policy and enforcing any regulatory obligations that policy gives rise to, as well as enforcing the law. We have a set of overarching regulatory principles to guide how we operate(-1-). Amongst these principles are that we:

  • operate with a bias against intervention, but with a willingness to intervene firmly, promptly and effectively where required.
  • strive to ensure our interventions will be evidence-based, proportionate, consistent, accountable and transparent in both deliberation and outcome.
  • always seek the least intrusive regulatory mechanisms to achieve our policy objectives.

1.5 In practice, this means that we set a range of evidence based and fair policies and then require operators in the communications market to abide by the rules. If operators persistently or deliberately break these rules then we take decisive enforcement action.

1.6 This approach protects citizens and consumers from harmful practices, but allows industry an appropriate level of freedom to compete and innovate. It pursues our principal duties to further the interests of citizens in relation to communications matters and of consumers in relevant markets.

1.7 Recent enforcement activity has faced new and evolving threats to citizen and consumer interests. We responded to this in 2008 by issuing a record number of broadcasting statutory sanctions, by introducing new consumer protection programmes and investigations and by targeting prolific illegal broadcasters and the manufacturers and retailers of illegal equipment.

1.8 Going forward, we have set out a range of enforcement priorities to ensure we protect citizens and consumers in the future.

  • In broadcasting enforcement we will continue to secure public protection under the Broadcasting Code - in particular, paying close attention to participation television and the use of premium rate phone services (we are currently reviewing elements of the Code and will be consulting on proposed amendments in due course).
  • In competition and consumer investigations we will continue our consumer enforcement programmes to ensure the market provides clear, honest and transparent value.
  • In spectrum enforcement we will continue to target the most persistent and harmful illegal equipment manufacturers and retailers and illegal users of the radio spectrum including illegal (pirate) broadcasters.

Footnotes:

  1.- Please see http://www.ofcom.org.uk/about/sdrp/

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