CICRA (the Channel Islands Competition and Regulatory Authorities) is the independent organisation working on your behalf to ensure you receive the best value, choice and access to high quality services but what does that mean in practice for you, the consumer?
Over a series of articles, we will explain a bit more about CICRA’s role across the Channel Islands and particularly here in Jersey.
CICRA is one of several local organisations, including Trading Standards, Citizens Advice and the Jersey Consumer Council, that work to inform and protect the rights of islanders. As individual organisations we are relatively small but in partnership we support each other to ensure the best outcomes for you.
CICRA regulates the telecoms sector, Jersey Post and Ports of Jersey (the airport, harbour and marinas) and is responsible for administering and enforcing the local competition law
CICRA provides the information you need to make important purchasing decisions.
We publish telecoms customer satisfaction ratings and undertake independent mystery shopping surveys on the different telecoms providers. We’ll shortly be publishing the results of the first ever check on local mobile coverage as well as the results of the latest mobile mast emissions audit. We’re looking at quality of service delivered by Ports of Jersey at the airport, harbour and marinas and will be reporting on that later this year.
We involve government and local interest groups when changes to policy or law should be considered; for example our work on reviewing the supply of road fuel in Jersey led to a change in the law to require prices to be visibly displayed from the roadside at all outlets ensuring you are in a position to be fully informed and to shop around.
CICRA protects local business and consumers from anticompetitive behaviour by enforcing competition law.
We watch out for any businesses potentially causing consumer harm. This may be price fixing between competitors or unfairly obstructing other providers from serving you. The competition law spans all business sectors and not just those we regulate.
For the telecoms sector, Jersey Post and Ports of Jersey, we have a more active role in setting ‘the rules’ by which the businesses operate as we licence these businesses. We can set prices, quality of service targets and hold these businesses to account when things go wrong – all to ensure that the interests of fair dealing businesses and local consumers are protected. For example, we’ve recently required JT to reduce its landline prices by 13% over the next two years and we’re keeping a closer watch on Jersey Post quality of service after it experienced a dip in performance.
We can prevent or amend proposed mergers and acquisitions where there would be a detrimental impact on choice locally. Recently we made sure Sandpiper’s acquisition of the Costcutter shops was modified to protect consumer choice in St Ouen, St John and Green Island.
While we are able to resolve most issues informally sometimes this is not possible; we have the power to mandate changes and to issue fines. This is very much a last resort. We’ve fined the States of Jersey for breaching the law after it created a monopoly for itself in the emptying of septic and tight tanks by restricting access to another business, Bellozane from operating in the same sector. We’ve also fined JT when it tried to fix the minimum selling price of its pay-as-you-go SIM packs.
CICRA needs to ensure it continues to focus on what is important to you as a local consumer. We’re very grateful for the help provided by islanders recently, through participation in our annual telecoms satisfaction surveys and our focus groups discussing the quality of service provided by Ports of Jersey.
In the next article we will explain in more detail CICRA’s role with the harbour, airport and marinas in Jersey.
Telco Contracts – when does ‘Fixed Mean Fixed’?
When you sign up for a mobile phone, telephone or broadband contract you know you’re going to be committing to a fixed length contract, usually 12, 18 or 24 months.
You also know that the terms of that contract – including how much you pay for it – should be fixed over that period. The consumer is tied into that contract unless they pay an early termination charge (“ETC”) to leave before the end of the minimum contract period.
Remember that the Telco providers’ terms and conditions usually allow for price increases and variations to your contract during this term.
Thanks to a licensing condition called ‘fixed-means-fixed’ imposed by the regulator in April 2014, if your provider decides to increase prices part way through your fixed term contract, you should be given two calendar months’ written notice before the price rise and an option to end the contract penalty free. For example, if the amount of data included in your contract is reduced, you may end up paying more than originally agreed. As a result of change to licence conditions, you can exit the contract without penalty if the provider increases the cost of their deal.
This right only relates to changes to products within the list of services paid for by the recurring fee / subscription charge. If your deal includes a number of free services, the key point will be whether those were included in the original offer. If they were not, even if they were free originally, the operator is able to introduce a charge for them in future. It also does not apply other ‘out of bundle’ prices such roaming charges.
Please be aware that the protection afforded to you under ‘fixed-means-fixed’ only covers price increases ‘in-bundle’. In other words, your monthly allowances.
‘Out of bundle’ costs, being the amount you pay for exceeding your monthly allowances or new charges introduced for something which was originally free are likely to not be caught by this protection.
Our advice is to make sure you fully understand what is ‘in’ or ‘out of bundle’ when you sign up to a new contract and be aware that prices can change.
KEEPING IN TOUCH WITH FRIENDS & FAMILY
WHAT ARE YOUR OPTIONS?
If you wish to stay in touch with friends and family either in the UK or overseas, here are some tips/information to help you through the various options of how to make the call as cost effective as possible. It no longer needn’t be expensive.Read More
Telecommunications –Buying the Right Mix of Services
What are bundles?
Bundles include a mix of mobile; fixed line and broadband services. Having a bundle will in most cases require you to sign a contract for at least a year; or perhaps longer. Breaking a contract if you subsequently find that the service is not suitable or does not really give you what you wanted, may be expensive. In this article we consider only bundles associated with contracts and not Pay As You Go offers, which will be considered separately.
The main bundle types include:
Top Tips when shopping online…
- Always check out reviews on a web based company
- Ask for recommendations from friends and family to ensure they received reliable and fair service
- Check the terms and conditions .. see if they are poorly written as this may indicate a site outside of the UK. You need to be aware of where the site is based as this impacts on your consumer rights.
- Make sure the company shows a full postal address
Top Tips – How to get the best from your BroadBand
What can I do to improve my broadband experience?
There are many factors that can have an adverse impact on the speed of your connection; a problem with your service provider’s network itself is only one.
If you feel that you are not getting the broadband speed that you are subscribing to you should first use a speed test to measure how your connection is performing. You can compare this to the service speed to which you have subscribed.
Here are some tips for improving your broadband experience
UPDATE your web browser or try a new one.
LIMIT the number of devices in your home – the more devices you have online at once the more likely they are to slow each other down.
Apps and Age ….
Like movies, apps have age restrictions to ensure content is safe and appropriate for our children. This information is displayed clearly on the app before it is downloaded; making the age rating one of the first things users see when deciding to download.
Also check to see if the App requires ‘In-App’ purchases as this can quickly add up unwanted costs. Make sure you are fully informed before you download.
However in some circumstances, like watching movies, you may decide to let your child download an app above their age limit. If you find yourself in this difficult position, always…
Telecommunications –Buying the Right Mix of Services
When purchasing telecommunications products, service providers will invariably offer to sell us a mix of products across mobiles, landlines and broadband. These are known as Bundles.
What are bundles?
Bundles means that a telephone company includes a number of telecommunications services in a single priced product. This may be for a single service such as a mobile telephone contract or across a range of services. Many bundles include a mix of mobile; fixed line and broadband services.Read More