UK to Expand Regulatory Audit of Bill Accuracy

After handing out an unprecedented fine because a big telco kept screwing up the amount they charged customers, how should the regulator treat the auditors that failed to prevent that fiasco? By ensuring they get more work, obviously. That is the unfortunate conclusion of Ofcom, the UK’s comms regulator, per the new consultation it is running into consumer protection regulations.

Ofcom’s logic is not quite as perverse as I make it sound. The regulator wants to extend greater protection to customers because they spend an increasing amount on data, but existing audit rules exclude data from the scope of work done to assure billing accuracy. As Ofcom puts it in their consultation document, the reasons for extending the audit – formally known as the Metering and Billing Approval Scheme – is that:

Since we last considered the scope of application of the Metering and Billing Approval Scheme in 2013/2014, Ofcom’s complaints data shows a significant increase in the complaints related to the billing of data services. In light of this rise in the number of complaints and the progressive growth in the take up and importance of data services, our provisional view is that the Metering and Billing Approval Scheme should no longer differentiate between voice call services and data services and should become mandatory in respect of both.

They have a point. What they fail to mention is that there has also been a significant increase in the complaints relating to the billing of the voice services already covered by the regulation. So Ofcom’s proposal is to address the rise in complaints of overcharging by extending an audit scheme that already fails to address the rise in complaints of overcharging.

You have until 14th March to respond to the consultation, if you want. Ofcom proposes to make some other changes too, but none of them especially interesting. And you have almost no chance of persuading the regulator to fix any of the things they have messed up, because they have neither the competence nor the motivation to do better.

Eric Priezkalns
Eric Priezkalns
Eric is a recognized expert on communications risk and assurance. He was Director of Risk Management for Qatar Telecom and has worked with Cable & Wireless, T‑Mobile, Sky, Worldcom and others.

Eric was lead author of Revenue Assurance: Expert Opinions for Communications Providers, published by CRC Press. He was a member of Qatar's National Committee for Internet Safety and the first leader of the TM Forum's Enterprise Risk Management team. Eric currently sits on the committee of the Risk & Assurance Group. He is a qualified chartered accountant, with degrees in information systems, and in mathematics and philosophy.

Commsrisk is edited by Eric. Look here for more about Eric's history as editor.