In June the NPC wrote to Ofcom about the digital exclusion of older people. We have now received a response from Ofcom
The initial letter to Ofcom can be found by clicking on the button below
The response from Ofcom can be downloaded below.
You can read the letter response from Ofcom below
Dear Ms Shortt,
Thank you for your letter on 8 June, about the digital exclusion of older people, in which you raise a number of questions ranging across Ofcom’s remit. I would particularly like to draw on your points about the switch to Digital Voice, the future of BBC services, and the upcoming Online Safety Bill, as areas where Ofcom has a role.
I can assure you that Ofcom is committed to ensuring that the UK’s communications services work for everyone, and our teams consistently consider the accessibility of services to consumers who are less well-equipped digitally.
Firstly, you wrote about the migration of traditional landline services delivered over Public Switched Telephone Networks (‘PSTN’) to landline services delivered using Voice over Internet Protocol (‘VoIP’), which uses a broadband connection. As you know, Ofcom has a programme of work to monitor this migration - our objective is to minimise undue disruption and protect consumers from harm. We have put in place some specific guidance for telecoms providers on ensuring emergency calls for one hour during a power outage, published our expectations of providers when migrating customers, and highlighted to the main telecoms providers their obligations to treat vulnerable customers fairly.
I understand that you have already met with Ofcom colleagues who work on our monitoring
programme. I have asked them to contact you to give you an update and discuss how best to get feedback on your members’ experience of the migration.
Secondly, you raised some specific changes to the BBC’s services, where Ofcom also has a role. We consider these changes through two lenses – impacts on the BBC’s performance, and impact on competition. Before we can consider how we would assess the changes the BBC has set out in its recent announcement about moving to a digital first organisation, we will need the BBC to submit detailed proposals to us. The BBC has said that it will not be removing CBBC, BBC Four and BBC Radio 4 Extra from traditional broadcast services for at least the next few years and we can confirm that we have not received any proposals from the BBC in this respect.
On 22nd June 2022, we published a 12 week consultation on modernising the BBC’s Operating Licence. As part of this consultation, we are proposing to require the BBC to continue providing important content such as news and current affairs and nations and regions content via traditional broadcast TV and radio services. We are also proposing to allow the BBC more flexibility to provide some content online if it can demonstrate that this meets audience needs. Under those proposals, the BBC will need to be clear and transparent about any changes to its plans. This consultation closes on 14 September 2022 and we would welcome further comment on the proposals outlined in our consultation.
Finally, you raised the Online Safety Bill, and fraud. We recognise the harm that fraudulent activity can cause – both financial and emotional. Online fraud is part of a complex and evolving range of consumer harms. Accordingly, our regulatory interventions under the proposed regime will need to form part of a wider collaborative strategy for addressing the ‘whole system problem’ of online fraud and scams.
The Online Safety Bill is still going through its Parliamentary process – and it would be for Parliament to address any changes to the detail itself. As it stands, the Bill creates a duty on services to identify and assess the risk of illegal content being encountered on their platform, via a risk assessment. It then says providers must take proportionate steps to effectively mitigate and manage the risk of harm to individuals, including from fraud.
The Bill includes proposals that will give Ofcom robust information gathering and enforcement powers. We will be able to impose a range of sanctions including sizeable fines and, in some circumstances, to apply to the courts for an order imposing business disruption measures. Ofcom must prepare codes for regulated providers setting out recommended steps for compliance with their respective duties, including those relating to fraudulent advertising. We are in the very early stages of developing our policy in this space and will undertake a full consultation process after Royal Assent.
Finally, it may be helpful to note our statutory duty to promote media literacy as set out in the Communications Act 2003. Media literacy is about people – it's about digital inclusion, about being safe and savvy online and about the design choices made by the platforms. In December 2021 we published our new Approach to Media Literacy, which sets out our priorities and activities over the next few years.
I hope that this information has been helpful, and thank you again for your letter.