Select Committee on Science and Technology Minutes of Evidence

Letter from Ofcom

  During the oral evidence session on 24 January as part of the Committee's current inquiry into Personal Internet Security, reference was made to comments by Professor Ian Walden from the Society for Computers and Law, who said that Ofcom, with its good reputation and better levels of recognition, would be well placed to offer regulation in Internet security. Ofcom also notes thae recent report published by the Society for Computers and Law which states at paragraph 17 that "Ofcom is the proper person to enforce Regulation 5 of the Privacy and electronic communicatiosn "ePrivacy" Regulations (PECR) and not the Information Commissioner".

  While Ofcom is appreciative of Professor Walden's kind words in Committee, as he later recognises in that discussion, Ofcom does not have a remit in the wider area of personal Internet security, or indeed the necessary expertise. In relation to compliance with PECR as the Society for Computers and Law suggests, while Ofcom does have certain powers in this regard, Ofcom and the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) are shortly to finalise a letter of understanding which sets out the basis for future collaboration between Ofcom and the ICO in areas where we share a common enforcement responsibility.

  At present, these areas are primarily those covered by the PECR—which include the use of automated calling systems, the transmission of recorded messages that contain direct marketing material, and compliance with the Telephone (TPS) and Fax (FPS) Preference Services.

  As the Committee will know, there are areas where Ofcom or the ICO will have specialist experience and might generally be expected to take the lead. Examples might include where the issue of privacy is foremost and the ICO would be expected to take the lead. In contrast, if an investigation would benefit from technical knowledge of the communications sector, Ofcom might be best placed to take the lead. Ofcom notes that the ICO has recently undertaken enforcement action in compliance with the TPS scheme. A link to the ICO's press release in its December enforcement action can be found at

  It is also worth noting Ofcom's recent enforcement action imposing a financial penalty of £10,000 on 1RT under section 130 of the Communications Act 2003 (penalties for the persistent misuse of a communications network of service) in relation to their sending faxes containing marketing material to telephone numbers registered with the FPS without consent, details of which can be found at

  Ofcom considers that such an understanding supports appropriate enforcement, providing clarity on the roles of the two organisations and playing to the expertise of both.

8 March 2007

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