FOI request Regarding ISP based behavioural or similar advertising techniques

Keith Mallen (Account suspended) made this Freedom of Information request to Competition Commission

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

Competition Commission did not have the information requested.

Keith Mallen (Account suspended)

Dear Sir or Madam,

Until recently the company Phorm claimed to have agreements in place with the three main ISP companies within the UK; BT, Virgin and TalkTalk, which would have resulted in a claimed 70% coverage of the consumer broadband market.

Recently Virgin Media introduced a system called "Advanced Network Error Search"

http://www.virginmedia.com/myvirginmedia...

The page makes a statement that

"You might already have something like this on your PC, for example toolbars or security packages. When our new service switches on, it might override these toolbars, but if you prefer their service, it's not a problem - you can opt out and you will see your old service working again."

Specifically these and other systems are 'Opt-Out' meaning that customers are given the service without being asked in the first place. They then have to discover what has happened and then actively opt-out.

In the first instance a single company, e.g. Phorm, would have been in a position to control 70% of the UK market for this type of advertising.

In the second instance Virgin Media represents about 25% of the home broadband market. They mention that the service they are giving their customers without asking for permission in the first place will interfere with other services that the customers may have made an informed choice and opted into. Such services may be provided by search engines or anti-virus companies in support of their own, mostly free, products. Effectively Virgin Media have 'stolen' those customers.

There will be other examples of such possibilities.

I understand that the markets for broadband/ISP consumer suppliers has been deregulated in order to guarantee some level of competition.

In all cases where services are being interfered with at the ISP level there is a real possibility that competition in such markets will be severely compromised given the captive nature of the customers involved.

FOI request.

Please provide details of how the Competition Commission has and is approaching this possibility.

Yours faithfully,

Keith Mallen

Keith Mallen (Account suspended)

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am currently overdue a response from you for an FOI request. In case the original did not reach you you may find the details here,

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/fo...

Having sent my request to you later on the OFT opened a consultation on issues surrounding this industry and I have copied my concerns regarding competition to them for inclusion.

Strictly speaking it is not a 'proper' FOI request however I still feel that the question is valid and is likely to be passed on to you as something within your remit.

Can you at least confirm that you received my original message and, perhaps, give an indication that you are in contact with the OFT with respect to their consultation regarding this issue?

Thanks

Keith Mallen

Tara Wheeler,

Hi Keith,

I'm very sorry about your previous request, I can't see in the FOI inbox
but I will investigate and come back to you with a response as quickly
as possible, especially as we have now exceeded the 20 day limit.

Kind regards,
Tara.

Tara Wheeler
Planning
0207 271 0209

show quoted sections

Keith Mallen (Account suspended)

Yo Tara

Since I'm slightly guilty... no worries.

As long as you now have the original information and will consider it then that will be good.

Thanks

Keith Mallen

Tara Wheeler,

Hi Keith,

I've just spoken to our Information Centre who have told my that this is
a matter for Ofcom, would you like me to forward your email to Ofcom or
will you email them directly?

I'm sorry that we cannot investigate your complaint directly. As a
second-phase competition authority, The Competition Commission can only
investigate cases referred to it by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT),
the Secretary of State for Trade and Industrial or Sector Regulators,
for example Ofcom. We have no power to initiate our won investigations
into matters.

Let me know what you'd prefer to do.

Best regards,
Tara.

Tara Wheeler
Planning
0207 271 0209

show quoted sections

Tara Wheeler,

Sorry Keith, I've noticed a couple of typos in those last two emails,
please find corrected below.

Best regards!

Tara.

Tara Wheeler

Planning

0207 271 0209

show quoted sections

Keith Mallen (Account suspended)

Hello Tara,

Thanks for the reply.

I sort of know, or have now worked out, that the Competition Commission is unable to act unless they receive the request from another department. Perhaps you deal with enforcement rather than determination?

As suggested in my previous e-mail after my first request to your department the OFT began a consultation looking into some of the issues surrounding this and I have contacted them regarding the competition aspect.

Mumble. Just a moment...

http://www.oft.gov.uk/advice_and_resourc...

I assume that if they take the concern on board then they will contact your department. See, you do typos [me too], I don't know how things are meant to work.

Now you have suggested Ofcom.... This sounds like one of those multi-jurisdictional Axel Foley type things. Yes please on the Ofcom side as long as it is not going to get you in trouble or confuse things further.

.... some other words....

Appreciated

Keith

Tara Wheeler,

Hi Keith,

It is absolutely no problem for me to forward your request to Ofcom.

The OFT would be able to give you a much better idea of what will happen
next if they are dealing with the case but you are right that they do
refer certain inquires to us. We don't however, know what will be
referred very far in advance of these referrals being made. For more
information about our work:

http://www.competition-commission.org.uk...

http://www.competition-commission.org.uk...

Best regards,
Tara.

Tara Wheeler
Planning
0207 271 0209

show quoted sections

Keith Mallen (Account suspended)

Hi Tara

Thanks for the reply.

Since the OFT is looking into related matters in the form of a consultation and have been informed of my concerns then perhaps it would be best to leave Ofcom alone for now. I would not want to let things get too involved.

For the moment, and otherwise, it's a wrap.

Thanks and appreciated.

Keith.

Tara Wheeler,

Ok, will do. Best of luck with it all Keith.

Tara.

Tara Wheeler
Planning
0207 271 0209

show quoted sections

Keith Mallen (Account suspended)

I'm sure it's inappropriate but

Cuddles :-)

Keith

Tara Wheeler,

Yeah, bit inappropriate Keith but what the hell, cuddles to you as well.

Tara Wheeler
Planning
0207 271 0209

show quoted sections