Ofcom is looking into the telecoms firm’s compliance with rules to protect vulnerable customers during the switch from analogue to digital telephone landlines
Telecoms giant Virgin Media faces an Ofcom investigation over whether it has followed rules meant to protect vulnerable customers during the switchoff from analogue to digital phone lines.
There are concerns about uninterrupted access for people needing emergency services and fair treatment of vulnerable customers. The telecoms industry is in the process of replacing traditional landline services with new digital technology.
However, fears have been raised about how this may affect vulnerable people who rely on telecare alarm systems that operate through their landlines. Though telecare systems do work with digital phone lines, they might fail if there’s a power cut or internet drop-out.
This isn’t an issue with copper phone lines which usually keep working even when the power’s down. In response to some “serious incidents” linked to failed personal telecare alarms, telecom firms have agreed to stop pushing customers onto the new digital phone network.
Ofcom shared its concerns about Virgin Media, saying: “Ofcom has opened an own-initiative investigation into Virgin Media’s compliance with its obligations under the general conditions of entitlement, while migrating customers from analogue to digital landlines. We have been clear with companies that they must, during this process, ensure they identify, protect and support vulnerable customers.”
The regulator emphasises the importance of offering an uninterrupted service, especially for emergency calls. They said: “A critically important function of the telephone network is to allow people, particularly vulnerable people, to contact the emergency services.
“Therefore, any action, or inaction, taken by communications providers which disrupts consumers’ ability to reach these services is of the utmost seriousness.” Further details on their investigation will be released soon.
A Virgin Media spokesperson said: “We have been regularly updating and working closely with Ofcom and Government for many years as essential work takes place across the industry to safeguard voice networks for future. Last December we signed a Government-led charter and have paused all landline migrations, carried out an end-to-end review and will make further improvements to the measures we already have in place before switchovers restart.”
“While telecoms companies like us have a crucial role to play in this switchover activity, it’s essential that telecare companies and local authorities also step up and meet their responsibilities to ensure everyone receives the support they need. We’re co-operating fully with the regulator’s investigation and will continue to work closely with the rest of the industry and other parties.
“Alongside other measures to help us identify and best support those who have additional requirements, we urge any Virgin Media customers who are vulnerable or use a telecare device to ensure they have notified us. This can be done by calling our customer care team who will update our systems and ensure the right assistance is provided in future.”