Kyle Scott says charity successfully convinced Ofcom to change tact
Citizens Advice Scotland has secured protections for small charities in Scotland, working in partnership with telecommunications regulator Ofcom.
Ofcom proposed taking a series of measures to protect the interests of telecommunications customers as part of the UK’s implementation of the European Electronic Communications Code (EECC), an EU Directive that updates the regulations for communications services.
The proposals developed new protections for customers, including small and micro enterprises and not for profit organisations.
These protections included making sure that customers were provided with contractual information before contracts are finalised, that customers received contract summaries, and that the maximum contract duration be no more than 24 months.
Ofcom sought views on which customers should be eligible for these additional protections and how these groups should be defined and identified.
The regulator originally felt that these protections would apply to business and not for profit customers with less than 10 staff. However, this definition also included volunteers within this headcount.
CAS identified that this could be detrimental for the Bureaux within the Citizens Advice network in Scotland, as well as many other third sector organisations.
CAS responded to Ofcom’s consultation, arguing that the inclusion of volunteers within the headcount threshold would harm charities that rely on volunteers to fulfil their charitable purposes and did not reflect how the third sector operates.
We argued that volunteers may be transient, only available at certain periods or recruited for short term projects; meaning that the headcount may fluctuate substantially over time. We argued that this proposed definition could therefore be administratively unworkable for both telecommunications providers and customers.
Ofcom carefully considered our argument in relation to the proposal, and we are pleased they have agreed with our reasoning, stating that: "Given the reasoning provided by Citizens Advice Scotland, and our subsequent reasoning set out above, we have decided to not include volunteers within this headcount threshold."
This decision will ensure that many third sector organisations in Scotland including Citizens Advice Bureau are able to benefit from these new customer protection measures.
Kyle Scott is policy officer at Citizens Advice Scotland