Select Committee on Science and Technology Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary letter from Ofcom

  At our oral submission of evidence to the Committee on 18 April 2007, we said we would provide supplementary written evidence in response to a question posed by Lord Harris of Haringey.

  Lord Harris asked how we interpret our duty under section 14 of the Communications Act to ascertain the interests and experiences of consumers that are incidental to, or connected with, their experiences of communications services. Although Lord Harris referred to section S 14 (1) (d) of the Act, this duty falls under subsection (f).[14]

  We fulfil this duty in two ways: consumer research; and engagement with stakeholders.


  We carry out a substantial programme of research to explore consumers' interests and experiences that are related to communications services. Our poilcy projects often involve empirical consumer research, and we use a variety of methodologies, from quantitative surveys to deliberative workshops with members of the public.

  Some of our research is not tied to a specific policy project, so we can form a broader picture of consumers' experiences and concerns. For example, we carry out an ongoing residential tracker survey, which aims to provide us with a continued understanding of consumer behaviour in UK markets.

  Our consumer experience research[15] mentioned in our previous written and oral evidence, will be repeated on an annual basis. This includes broad, open and unprompted questions that seek to explore consumers' concerns, without the research being framed within the context of a specific policy project. Our annual communications market report[16] also contains a significant amount of information on new trends in consumer behaviour.

  More broadly, we track changes in consumer demographics and behaviour through additional analysis, including interpreting secondary data (such as Office of National Statistics data on demographic changes). We fund, jointly with other organisations, research on breaking trends in consumer behaviour in communications and other markets, in several countries.


  Beyond research, we organise an ongoing programme of stakeholder engagement with consumer and disability organisations, to learn from their experiences. Engagement takes a variety of forms, including bilateral meetings, informal email and telephone contact, holding stakeholder events, and attendance at consumer group meetings. We also will pilot an online forum for stakeholders, so that they can discuss issues and provide further input into our work.

  Their input helps ensure that our work directly addresses the interests of consumers. We also carry out a series of events that are open to the public when consulting on our Annual Plan, to help us assess whether our priorities reflect people's concerns.

1 May 2007

14   Ofcom must make arrangements for ascertaining: (f) the interests and experiences of such consumers in relation to other matters that are incidental to, or are otherwise connected with, their experiences of the provisoin of electronic communications networks and electronic communications services or of the availability of associated facilities. Back

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