Queen’s speech highlights a customer-centred legislative agenda

20th May 2016

This week, the Queen announced a number of bills that could have a huge bearing on customer service. 

One potentially significant legislative programme for digital and public service providers is the Digital Economy Bill, which includes plans to reform the way in which the government uses data to deliver public services.   

If passed, the Bill would introduce a new broadband Universal Service Obligation (USO), giving all citizens and businesses the legal right to a fast broadband connection. The government expects the minimum speed to be at least 10 megabytes per second, and the legislation would empower Ofcom to review this, giving customers the right to automatic compensation when things go wrong. 

The regulator would also be given powers to order providers to release data such as customer complaints and broadband speed, helping customers make informed choices. New measures to make switching providers easier would mean customers would only have to deal with their new provider in order to switch.

For utilities providers, the Better Markets Bill provides plenty of food for thought. Designed to give all customers more power and choice by enabling faster switching and greater protection when things go wrong, the Bill could have a big impact on the energy market. It includes powers to encourage customers to switch providers and get better deals, and would give competition authorities more powers to curb anti-competitive behaviour.

Jo Causon, chief executive of the Institute of Customer Service, notes that choice should be intrinsic to customer service: “Customer satisfaction in the utilities sector remains lower than the national average, so giving customers more choice will drive innovation, keep the industry agile and responsive, and ensure suppliers are driven to provide the levels of customer service consumers expect.” 

The Bill would take steps to ensure open and competitive markets, and would push for a quick response to the Competition and Market Authority’s final recommendations for promoting competition within the energy market. The proposed legislation also promises to simplify regulatory processes.  

The Queen’s speech also suggested that public service providers should ready themselves to meet a number of objectives set out in the Children and Social Work Bill. The government has made it clear that its purpose is to drive improvements in social services and to improve the support offered to those leaving the care system. Plans include the introduction of a specialist regulator for social work, standards for how local authorities should support children in care and as they move into adult life, and a requirement for local authorities to set out the services that those leaving the care system are entitled to. 

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