The regulator says it wants to ensure that vulnerable customers are being treated fairly and that access to emergency services is not being jeopardised during the switch
Across the UK – and, indeed, across many parts of the world – steps are being taken to migrate customers away from traditional analogue landlines to IP-based digital landline services.
While for the vast majority of customers this process will cause little disruption, for a number of vulnerable customers who rely more heavily on the older system, the switch could be more problematic. Perhaps the largest issue is related to IP-based services reliance on a consistent power supply; if power supply is disrupted, such as during a storm, this can leave customers unable to contact emergency services.
Concerns related to these issues saw Ofcom call on operators to pause their landline migration process back in December last year, asking the operators to review their processes.
Today, Ofcom has gone one step further, launching an investigation into Virgin Media to examine whether they have been treating vulnerable customers appropriately.
“This investigation relates to concerns about Virgin Media’s compliance with two areas,” explained the regulator in a statement. “First, our rules require that Virgin Media must take all necessary measures to ensure uninterrupted access to emergency organisations. Second, our rules also require that Virgin Media establish and comply with effective policies and procedures for the fair and appropriate treatment of vulnerable consumers.”
Virgin Media defended itself, saying it has been working with Ofcom and the government to ensure the switch-over takes place smoothly and are following best practices.
“Last December we signed a Government-led charter and have paused all landline migrations, carried out an end-to-end review and will make further improvements to the measures we already have in place before switchovers restart,” said the company in a statement. “While telecoms companies like us have a crucial role to play in this switchover activity, it’s essential that telecare companies and local authorities also step up and meet their responsibilities to ensure everyone receives the support they need. We’re cooperating fully with the regulator’s investigation and will continue to work closely with the rest of the industry and other parties.”
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