Friday, 16 November 2007

Switching broadband: Prodigy Internet fined £30k; complain to Ofcom if you have problems!

On 9 November UK regulator Ofcom fined Prodigy Internet Limited - which seems to trade as Prodigy Networks - £30,000 for failing to provide info on Prodigy's compliance with new rules, known as GC22, introduced in Feb 2007 to help consumers migrate their broadband services "quickly, easily and with minimal service disruption" (more on moving broadband internet providers using GC22):

As part of its ongoing investigation into Prodigy’s compliance with GC22 and GC14.7, Ofcom issued a notice to Prodigy under section 135 of the Communications Act 2003 (‘the Act') requiring the provision of specified information. As Prodigy failed to comply with this notice, a notification under section 138 of the Act was issued to Prodigy on 31 May 2007. Prodigy also failed to comply with this notification.

Ofcom considers that Prodigy has failed to provide all the required information. Given Prodigy’s ongoing failure to comply with the section 135 notice and having followed the procedures set out in the Act, Ofcom has decided to impose a penalty of £30,000 on Prodigy. A non-confidential version of the penalty notice issued to Prodigy on 9 November 2007 under section 139 of the Act is currently being prepared and will be published shortly.

Ofcom said they continue to investigate Prodigy's activities. Interestingly, at the date of writing this I see Prodigy are also overdue on filing their obligatory annual accounts with the UK companies registrar (due 31 October 2007)...

Ofcom are continuing, until at least February 2008, to keep an eye on the extent to which internet service providers generally are actually following GC22.

So do complain to Ofcom if you encounter difficulties moving between ADSL broadband service providers who provide internet connection over BT copper loop phone lines (the rules don't apply to cable broadband, sadly). Or even if you've had problems with migrating your broadband internet access after Feb 2007, but hadn't got round to telling Ofcom yet. And make sure to do it before Feb 2008.

They say they won't deal with individual complaints, but they do monitor them, and if there are relatively high complaint levels against a particular ISP, they've "held discussions with the relevant broadband provider to identify the cause of the complaints and bring about compliance with GC22. Where this approach has not succeeded, we have taken a more formal approach." I guess that's what happened with Prodigy.

Ofcom say that since the introduction of the enforcement programme, the number of complaints received by Ofcom about broadband migration issues has fallen by about half, from around 480 complaints per week at the start of March to around 250 complaints per week at the start of August. So that seems to be a sign that GC 22 is working. But as the Prodigy fine and my own experiences trying to migrate providers show, it's not working in all cases. So the more consumers who register their complaints with Ofcom about their issues, the better - if you've had problems, just drop them a line. They can't investigate something if they don't know about it.

More details about steps to take to move ISPs under GC22 are in my previous post but your existing broadband ISP is supposed to provide info on how to switch and to enable you to switch, involving what's called a "MAC" which is a migration authorization code you give to your new ISP, with certain deadlines. They're not supposed to charge you for the MAC either, not even if they say you owe them money for unpaid charges.

So what are you waiting for - if you've had difficulties with obstructive unhelpful ISPs stressing you out with deliberately trying to put obstacles in the way of your changing to another DSL broadband provider, tell Ofcom today. Even a one liner is better than nothing, naming the ISP and the issue of course. Ofcom's page on problems with switching providers unfortunately isn't enough to cover all the possible breaches of GC22, but tell 'em anyway, and strike a blow for consumer rights - and maybe even get at least the satisfaction of seeing the obstreperous rule-breaking sods fined for it!

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