In a new take on on-line consumer confidence schemes, telecoms regulator Oftel has announced a proposed code and kite mark for sites comparing telecoms prices.
When: December 2001
Yet another e-commerce accreditation scheme looks likely to be upon us. This time the proposal comes from Oftel and looks serious. The target is websites designed to help consumers compare what they are currently paying for telecom services with what they could be paying with another supplier. Those "telecom aggregation sites" who honour Oftel's proposed Code of Practice and follow the required standards will be awarded a "kite mark", thus giving consumers assurance that those websites will enable them to compare the price of competing telecom services easily and accurately.
Key proposals in the consultation are that accredited websites should be independent and provide price information on a wide range of telecom suppliers, be designed to make it easy for consumers to compare prices of different telecom services, should tell consumers that they may wish to consider other issues such as quality of service before making their telecom choice and should provide accurate price information that is updated at least quarterly. It should also be stated, the code requires, if the site provider is earning commission. Also, if the site provides prices of fixed telecom services, it must include the prices of at least 10 telecom suppliers, including BT.
The consultation period on the proposals will close at the end of February 2002 and Oftel currently intends to introduce the accreditation scheme by June 2002. More details are available at Oftel's website at www.oftel.gov.uk/publications/consumer/accr1201.htm.
Why This Matters:
Marketinglaw has already reported on the proliferation of e-commerce accreditation schemes and questioned their usefulness. However, this scheme does seem to offer real, material consumer advantages in a notoriously complex sector. As ever, the big challenge will be winning consumer awareness of the scheme, as well as buy-in from the industry.