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Chairman of OFT welcomes Communications Commission announcements 16 July 2008

Bill Henderson MHK, Chairman of the Isle of Man Office of Fair Trading, welcomes yesterday’s Communications Commission’s announcements. Mr Henderson said :

“The news that the Commission will be allowing Cable and Wireless to provide full retail services including fixed line services is excellent. We hope that the company will be able to provide effective competition. Added to this, I am really pleased that the Commission have announced that as a result of consumer complaints they will be investigating the fixed line tariff increases recently announced by Manx Telecom.”

“I was so worried about these increases that I met with Manx Telecom managers including Managing Director, Chris Hall, to express my concerns about the announced changes and their impact on those of the members of the public who will be affected. The company has provided a range of information to clarify why it has chosen to make these changes. This has helped us understand their position and has allowed us to identify areas where they could do more to help consumers.”

“Mr Hall has assured me personally that the company will not be generating extra revenue as a result of these changes and that the exercise is revenue neutral for the company. He explained that many customers have been asking for cheaper calls and that increasingly lines provided by the company are used by consumers who use other service providers. The company tells me that it is attempting to make the cost of line rental reflect the cost to it of providing the network and at the same time to reduce call charges by providing a range of free call options.”

“Irrespective of the Commission’s announcements, consumers need to act fast to make sure that they do not lose out. There are two main things they need to do. Firstly, they should call the company to ask which tariff package is best for their usual call pattern. The company can look at previous bills and tell you what the cheapest option is. Secondly, they need to take into account of the discounts available. Paying by direct debit gives a good saving, as does accepting an electronic bill. Consumers do not need to be online at home to obtain this discount: many people will be able to use a friend or family member’s computer once a month to read their bills. These two discounts total £1.50 a month and I would urge all those who can to sign up for both. These discounts are not retrospective so consumers need to act before the end of the month.”

Mr. Henderson continued: “I am worried about those people who use their ‘phone often enough to make the Low User Choice tariff’s higher call charges too expensive but who do not gain any benefit from the discounts offered under the next tariff, the Standard Choice package. Some of these people may benefit from being included as a named partner in a group billing agreement: if most of your calls are to the same person and you are prepared to be billed jointly, this can be a much cheaper option. This might work well within families. Mr Hall has agreed to treat sympathetically customers who contact Manx Telecom for advice after they receive the first bill following the changes. As the new tariffs are not fixed contracts, customers can change at any time without incurring a penalty.”

“We have had some reassurances from Manx Telecom, which are welcome. We also have an assurance that many customers’ overall bills will work out cheaper when the lower call charges are taken into account. However, I remain concerned for those people who do not contact Manx Telecom with regards to having their bills assessed to see which of the new tariffs will be best for them as there is a danger they will end up paying more than they need to. I have urged Manx Telecom to further advise customers of this by way of public notices and advertisements. We will be closely monitoring the situation over the coming months.” Mr. Henderson said.

In concluding Mr. Henderson again strongly urged all Manx Telecom customers who have not already done so to contact the company to ensure that they are placed on the best tariff for them and do not pay more than they need to.

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