Ofcom embarks on VoIP regulation

From this summer, all VoIP providers will be obliged to provide certain details to consumers about their service

Ofcom has announced it will regulate all VoIP services from this summer.

The watchdog has mandated that, from June this year, all VoIP service providers will have to open up to customers to help them make an informed decision on which calling package to pick.

Information which VoIP vendors will have to reveal includes whether they offer emergency services calls; the type of number portability they offer; whether they provide directory enquiries; and how much the VoIP system is dependent on the user's power supply.

If vendors are selling systems that don't offer connections to emergency services or which rely on a user's electrical power, the new regulation will ask them to flag it up to customers before they sign up. Users will be asked to agree that they are aware of the issues when they sign up.

Ofcom will consult later on this year over whether emergency services connectivity should be mandatory for those offering VoIP services.

But the representative organisation for VoIP service providers was unhappy with Ofcom's move to strengthen regulation. The Internet Telephony Service Providers' Association said in a statement: "The move from a light-touch approach towards a more rigid regulatory framework will have a significant impact on the industry. ITSPA is wary that the detail of the new rules may have unfortunate implications for UK businesses and consumers."

ITSPA said it feared that VoIP services would be subjected to stricter regulations than any other area of the telecommunications industry. It also highlighted extra costs that would result from extra regulation.

ZDNet UK's Richard Thurston contributed to this article.