NGCS changes: “But Ofcom say…”

Since we published our draft July rate sheet last week a few customers have been quick to tell us it is wrong. It is “wrong” because the Ofcom Service Charge Master Sheet in the Ofcom numbering downloads contradicts it for some codes. We’re also aware that operators less able to give customers a draft rate sheet are referring people to that same “master” sheet.

Our draft sheet is based on contract amendments from/to our carrier partners and the Service Charges referred to in there are what we will be charged in each direction. It is therefore right, proper and contractually justified that those are the Service Charges we charge you. In each case, the network hosting the range will be remitting those Service Charges to the Range Holder. In other words, those are the Service Charges that everyone in the supply chain will be using. If they are “wrong” then they will be amended in the normal course of rate updates to us and by us.

The list Ofcom have produced is based on a single-shot enquiry to Range Holders, generally before the process of contract amendments began. It will mostly be right but where, for whatever reason, the Service Charge notified to Ofcom has somehow changed along the way, we do not see any process for it being reflected there. The exercise has not been repeated nor have we been asked for a schedule of other operators’ Service Charges for reconciliation.

Some have suggested that it is a legal responsibility to charge what Ofcom say in the “master sheet”. We can’t give you legal advice and you should check with Ofcom yourself if in doubt but that would be an uncharacteristic way of doing things. With charge controls (e.g. Mobile Termination Rates), Ofcom publishes the permitted maximum and then some operators update contracts to reflect them. Others leave contracts established at the old rates and those are the rates that continue to apply in the market. This is why many years after the first mobile charge control there are some mobile ranges costing upwards of 17p at wholesale when the maximum MTR has been sub-1p for a few years. If NGCS were to follow a similar pattern we would expect any anomalies between Ofcom data and market data, and any non-compliance with NGCS (remember those ranges with no new NGCS charge-band) to be Range Holder led. By that we mean we’d expect the Range Holder to be asked to update Ofcom’s record or the Network Operator hosting their ranges to go through the process of contract amendments. We would be shocked if everyone with contracted rates differing to Ofcom’s were compelled to retrospectively adjust.

As we’ve said before, this is a massive change and the scale of price increases is huge. The scope for arbitrage, abuse and mistake is enormous. Some customers have simply decided not to route any 08 or 09 numbers for their customers and whilst we think that is heavy handed, they’ve at least looked at the changes coming through and assessed their risk. We strongly advise customers to get hold of our draft NGCS rates and begin preparation although they will likely change before being formally published.  The rates we publish in our rate sheets are the rates we will charge you, regardless of whether Ofcom is suggesting something different. We’d therefore strongly recommend the use of our extensive fraud control measures to, for example, limit the call charge on a given call to what you expect and need it to be.