Joint Committee on The Draft Communications Bill Minutes of Evidence

Note by the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport on the meaning of "Customer", "Consumer" and "Citizen"

In the draft Bill

  Generally, the term "customer" is used throughout the Bill to refer to individuals or businesses who use or seek to use electronic communications networks and services or associated facilities, or whom providers seek as users of those things.

  The draft Bill only uses the terms "consumer" and "citizen" (except in the term "Consumer Panel") when referring to existing legislation that uses these terms: clause 248 uses consumer in applying concurrency under the Fair Trading Act and clause 4(5) uses the term "citizen" in implementing the EU Directives.

  The exception to this is the name "Consumer Panel". The duties of the Consumer Panel are all set out in terms of "domestic and small business customers", which are any customers who do not themselves provide networks, services or associated facilities or have more than 50 workers (workers in this context includes employees and volunteers). The Panel is called the Consumer Panel because we believe that this will be more meaningful to those customers, and to align it with the terminology used for similar bodies elsewhere (eg the Financial Services Authority Consumer Panel).

In the Policy document

  In the Policy document we have generally used the terms "consumer" or "citizen" rather than "customer" when talking about interest of members of the public. This follows the general approach in the White Paper. Whilst there is no absolutely definitive boundary between how the two terms are used, generally the term "consumer" is used to indicate the purchaser or other user of a service, normally based on an economic relationship (either direct or indirect) between the individual and the service in question. Typically, though not exclusively, such interests arise in relation to networks and services rather than content.

  Meanwhile, the term "citizen" relates to the individual as a member of society, and enjoying the rights and responsibilities such membership confers. In the electronic communications sector, these tend to arise mainly in the content area, where more cultural aspects, such as harm and offence, access to a wide variety of high quality programming, and the handling of political issues assume importance. Frequently, where we are talking about the interests of citizens in relation to broadcast content we have referred to "viewers and listeners". The two terms are not used exclusively, and frequently we refer to both consumers and citizens to emphasise that both the economic and cultural relationships are included.

June 2002


previous page contents next page

House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 5 August 2002