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Consumer Information: Fees and Charges

Volume 476: debated on Monday 2 June 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what consumer protection legislation his Department has introduced to require (a) mobile telephone companies, (b) mortgage lenders, (c) insurance companies and (d) utilities companies to notify their customers of forthcoming changes in charging practices. (180381)

The Office of Communications (Ofcom) General Conditions direct the way in which the telecoms industry is regulated. General Condition 10 on transparency and publication of information requires communications providers ensure that clear and up-to-date information on their prices and tariffs (not including bespoke or individual prices and tariffs), and on their standard terms and conditions, are published by sending a copy of such information or any appropriate parts of it to any end-user who may reasonably request such a copy; and by placing a copy of such information on their website.

Ofcom has carried out two recent consultations concerned with consumer protection in the communications sector:

on mobile mis-selling which proposes a new general condition on sales and marketing which among other things would require mobile operators to provide customers with appropriate information about the product/service at the point of sale (http://www.ofcom.org.uk/consult/condocs/mobmisselling/); and

on additional charges which included draft guidance on the fairness of terms covering additional charges, for example non-direct debit charges, charges to terminate a contract early or paying extra to receive a fully itemised bill (http://www.ofcom.org.uk/consult/condocs/addcharges/)

The Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) is responsible for the regulation of gas and electricity supply, including the rules governing notification of price increases. It is open to Ofgem to consider whether additional regulatory protection is required. From August 2007, following a two-year review by Ofgem of the standard conditions of supply licences, gas and electricity suppliers are required to provide their customers with notice within 65 working days of a price increase taking effect. Suppliers are required to remind customers of their right to terminate the supply contract within 10 working days if the customer wishes to transfer supplier in light of the price increase.

Mortgage lenders and insurance companies are the responsibility of HM Treasury.