Analysis of Part IV of the (draft) Electronics Communications Act 1999

A summary of opinions


Part IV is about amending the Telecommunications Act 1984 (which privatised BT and gave us the telco landscape we have today). Back in 1984 there were only a handful of telcos with individual licences so that amending terms in their licences by mutual agreement was easy. These days there are several hundred telcos and they don't all turn round their mail, so that amendments are almost impossible without referring them to the Competition Commission.

Fundamental problem

This is a simple and straightforward change to the regulatory landscape for telcos. It belongs in a Bill of its own, which could probably proceed through Parliament in a straightforward manner. By attaching it to other proposals of significantly greater contentiousness the risk is either that it will not be scrutinised at all, or that scrutiny will be given to this material so as to reduce the time available to debate the other parts of the Bill.

Being rather more 'picky'...

It should be noted, in passing, that a great deal of power is being given to the Director General of Telecommunications (DGT) since it is entirely the decision of this person whether changes have or have not been objected to by a 'significant minority'. The Bill also appears to be trying to make the DGT proof against Judicial Review by making most of the tests that of the DGT's opinion rather than matters of actual fact. For example, the new clause 12B(2)(d) proposed in Clause 21 of the Bill explicitly states that appeals will fail if the decision could be reasonably arrived at - a test which it would be very hard to overcome.

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