Ed Richards, CEO of UK telecom regulator Ofcom, today (24 July 2012) criticised the environment that Ofcom and other UK regulators have to work in, claiming that they are often not in a position to make timely decisions for the benefit of consumers and the country as a whole because of the ‘constant backdrop of the threat of litigation’ hanging over them.
Speaking at a press conference today to announce the final rules for the auction of 4G mobile spectrum in the UK, Richards said the process had been a long drawn out one partly because of difficulties in clearing the spectrum to be auctioned, but also because of the threat of litigation from the mobile operators.
Richards did not pull his punches, saying this was part of a wider issue for the UK: ‘There is a real question about the ability of ourselves and other regulators to be able to make timely decisions. I do not think the UK is in the right place: it is too legalistic, too bureaucratic and prone to gaming.’
He continued: ‘When you are dealing with new technology you need to have the tools to make timely decisions and that is not the case. The risk is that the country is going in the wrong direction.
'Everything we do is subject to the huge shadow of litigation – the threat of multiple courts and multiple years moving from appeal court to appeal court. We are dealing with multinational corporations with huge reserves.’
Richards said that he strongly believed regulators should be open to challenge, however. ‘If we make a bad decision it should be able to be overturned on appeal. But we have to balance the two, so we can make timely decisions. At the moment it is out of kilter.’