Just Enough: Empowering Fixed-Line Telecommunications Consumers through a Quality of Service Information System
Patrick D. M. Barrow
Information, it is said, is power, and the proliferation of web-based information systems (IS) has made the potential for empowerment by information available to an increasingly large user population. The empowerment of consumers through quality of service information is a key component of modern UK economic and competition policy in order to both resolve certain information asymmetries between traders and consumers and facilitate switching, i.e. the ability of consumers to switch suppliers of goods and services. Using a case study approach, this paper concentrates not on the intricacies, physical design or specific information content of the IS itself but on the regulatory approach taken by the UK telecommunications regulator, Ofcom, to provide it. It considers how the mechanisms set up to provide and audit appropriate, comparable and reliable information actually favour the interests of the traders rather than the consumers. The result is that those people at whom such information is undoubtedly aimed (consumers) and who need it to make rational choices in the market are actually disempowered, particularly those vulnerable groups who may have special information requirements. It concludes that if consumers are to be properly empowered by information in such systems, the regulator must to more to better protect the consumer interest and provide them with information they actually need and not the information that the traders are willing to provide.
Telecommunications, quality of service, information systems
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