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Consumer Panel hits out on switchover plans

Ofcom’s independent Consumer Panel says it has “serious concerns” over the way the UK’s digital switchover is being managed. In a hard-hitting statement the panel, chaired by Colette Bowe, says it wants “fundamental changes in the way the process is being handled”, and says it does not believe that Digital UK – the industry-backed body charged with coordinating the 2008-2012 switchover timetable – “is adequately funded to handle the scale of the work required successfully to carry out switchover”.

Bowe said the Consumer Panel had strong concerns that “people who are socially isolated, and therefore at risk of not being able to manage to switch over, are not being adequately targeted as part of the planned help scheme”.

She said: “Both the Consumer Panel and the DCMS Select Committee believe that the needs of socially isolated households are in danger of not being met. We are calling on the Government to rethink its programme of support for vulnerable households which is poorly targeted and inadequate in scope.”

Bowe said there was still confusion over who was “ultimately responsible for making the whole process work”, with a complex multi-organisation arrangement for oversight, management and delivery of digital switchover, and overall accountability for switchover divided between two government departments.

“The Consumer Panel believes that there should be a clear single line of management responsibility and accountability which makes it clear who is ultimately responsible for the entire digital switchover programme. The Government’s view that it sees ‘no reason now to change the current arrangements’ in spite of the DCMS Select Committee’s recent recommendation for change adds to our concerns,” added Bowe.

The Consumer Panel advises Ofcom on consumer and citizen interests in the markets it regulates.

Earlier today Ofcom published an audit of viewers’ priorities for switchover, identifying what it believes are areas for further work by the Government, Digital UK and Ofcom itself.

Written by DTG Team

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