New communications regulator Ofcom has been slammed by the Communications Management Association (CMA) for not focusing on business users.
At the annual CMA Conference in London this week, CMA chairman Carolyn Kimber told delegates, “Our main industry player - BT - still holds significant market power according to all the figures, therefore a lot more needs to be done. It is certainly not a competitive marketplace.”
“We need a strong regulator, but according to the Ofcom remit, the main focus is on the 'citizen consumer', but how about the 'business consumer?'," she said.
But Ofcom chairman Lord Currie said that while Ofcom’s remit was set by government to focus on the majority of users, namely consumers, there was no explicit exclusion of the business community or any other group by the government legislation that created Ofcom.
“When I was in charge of the Ofgem utilities watchdog, it was the large business users who helped to shape the market decisions that had to be made to further open up the market, and there is no reason to think that the CMA cannot have a similar effect in opening up the telecoms market further - you have the muscle to make sure your providers are serving you,” he told delegates.
But the power of the UK regulator was disputed by Ewan Sutherland, executive director of Intug (International Telecommunication Users Group), the organisation which links national telecom users’ groups.
Sutherland said that Ofcom's budget may compare favourably with regulators in other countries, and indeed, in some countries it is seen as positive that there is little regulation of telecoms.
But the real measure of regulation “should be the difference between the amount spent by incumbent companies like BT on regulatory staff and award-winning economists and that of the regulator”, he added.
Sutherland said that BT had won hands down on cash spent on regulation when Ofcom’s predecessor Oftel was around, and that there was “no indication that this situation would change under Ofcom”.