On February 9th, 2024, Ofcom announced an investigation into Virgin Media’s compliance with rules designed to protect vulnerable customers during the digital switchover. The telecommunications industry is currently transitioning landline services from analogue to digital, raising concerns about how this change may affect certain individuals, including those with telecare systems that rely on landlines.
Virgin Media stated that it is working closely with Ofcom and the government in this matter. However, they also emphasized that other parties such as telecare companies and local authorities must take responsibility to ensure that everyone receives the necessary support. These telecare systems often function by having an emergency button that automatically calls for help when pressed through a user’s landline. Currently, these systems continue to work during power outages due to the reliability of traditional copper phone lines, but there are concerns about potential vulnerabilities when these services are switched to digital lines.
The investigation by Ofcom will focus on two main areas: rules around ensuring uninterrupted access for customers to emergency organizations and fair treatment of vulnerable customers. In response to a number of “serious incidents” involving the failure of personal telecare alarms, telecoms firms agreed in December to pause the process of moving customers onto the new digital phone network.
Ofcom has been clear with telecoms firms about the importance of identifying and supporting vulnerable individuals. It emphasized the significance of the telephone network in allowing people, especially those who are vulnerable, to contact emergency services. The regulator intends to publish further information on the progress of the investigation in the future.