Thursday, 3 July 2008

Mobile, broadband etc price comparisons: Broadband Choices & SimplifyDigital accredited by Ofcom

When choosing or changing your mobile network operator, phone company, broadband provider or cable, pay TV or satellite TV company, it can be hard to be sure that you've got the most up to date information and that you compare like with like. There are many services around that claim to provide price comparisons, but how do you know how accurate they are?

To help consumers be confident that the price comparison calculator they use is reliable and up to date, in 2006 Ofcom the UK comms regulator launched an accreditation scheme for price comparison calculators with guidelines for applicants wanting accreditation for their price comparison calculator services - which can cover a range of telecommunications services from fixed telephone, mobile telephone, international roaming, narrowband internet, broadband, voice over IP and digital TV to bundled services.

Ofcom have now awarded their first Ofcom Price Accreditation Scheme kitemarks, to two companies:
They've each been accredited for fixed phone line, mobile, broadband and digital television services price comparisons. The accreditation is good for a year (i.e. until July 2009), after which it will be reviewed and a further audit conducted.

This means that they've both "met the terms of a rigorous independent audit. The audit assesses whether sufficient processes are in place to ensure that information provided to consumers is accessible, accurate, transparent, comprehensive and up to date.

Accredited schemes are also required to provide information in a format that is easy to use and understand, and, where they provide their services online, to also provide their services on the telephone or in writing."

So if you're planning to get or change your fixed line telephone, mobile, broadband or digital TV service, you can now compare the prices of these services or bundles of them (e.g. phone combined with Internet access or TV) from Broadband Choices or Simplifydigital and, as Ofcom put it, "be assured that these companies offer accurate, comprehensive, up to date information on prices in an accessible format." If you use a non-kitemarked services, as the Ofcom Consumer Panel put it "Consumers should be aware that if they use providers not kitemarked by Ofcom then they risk an inferior service".

Hopefully this will encourage more price comparison services to try to get an Ofcom kitemark.

For more on the kitemark, see the Ofcom Price Comparison Accreditation consumer FAQ.

(But note that Ofcom's accreditation is only for the listed comms services - it doesn't mean that price comparison services for finances, insurance or energy prices accessible through the Broadband Choices site have been accredited by Ofcom, for instance. There will be other services for those, e.g. the Financial Services Authority regulator recently launched free official comparison tables for payment protection insurance or PPI, and they've indeed got tables - more like wizards, really - for financial products like mortgages, savings accounts etc. Ofcom just deals with telecomms.)

1 comment:

Dan Drage said...

Thanks for the mention, appreciate it!

Dan Drage - Editor, Broadband Choices