The Register quoted in UK’s Digital Economy Bill hearing by TalkTalk chief exec

Speaking at a hearing on the forthcoming Digital Economy Bill, British telecommunications firm TalkTalk’s chief exec Dido Harding has pushed for more power to go to the UK’s official regulator Ofcom in order to rebalance the market away from the UK telecommunications giants, BT and EE. The hearing listened to a quote from an article written in The Register by Kat Hall, based on a freedom of information request to underline how obstructing – and costly – the issue of litigation had become at Ofcom.

Over the course of just the last two years, journalists at The Register uncovered that the UK’s regulator for the broadcasting, telecommunications industries has spent £10 million on lawyers to fight off legal challenges against its decisions, and on in-house legal services to pre-empt threats before they emerge.

This high figure looks set to keep growing as Ofcom gears up to publish its 100-page “Communications Review”, a document expected to set the regulatory tone for the whole UK telecommunications sector over the next decade.

The potential to obstruct Ofcom decisions using litigation is something that UK communications provider, Three, has long complained about. In fact, many see the legal challenges made against Ofcom as far too effective a tool for more powerful companies to hold up important changes to the industry, made possible by Ofcom having a much lower threshold for appeal than any other regulator.

Ofcom themselves support reform of the appeals system for regulatory decisions, which they believe is disproportionate and encourages litigation acting against consumers’ interests. It is their objective to ensure that communications markets work well for consumers and businesses, rather than engaging in expensive litigation.

It remains to be seen if the upcoming Digital Economy Bill will empower Ofcom enough to limit the number of legal appeals which are currently slowing it down, or whether they will continue to be bogged down by the powerful companies it is supposed to be regulating.

Whatever the outcome, you can be sure The Register will be keeping a close eye on the issue and our journalists will keep you updated on the latest obstructive behaviour which is threatening our technology industry.



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