Ofcom will start regulating the burgeoning VoIP market this summer to ensure that customers are fully aware of the potential limitations of the service. Ofcom has established a code of practice for VoIP providers so consumers have more information when subscribing to services. From June 2007, VoIP companies will have to state clearly whether users can access emergency services numbers and the extent to which the service depends on the customer’s home power supply. VoIP providers will also need to inform consumers whether they can keep their phone numbers when switching providers and whether traditional telecoms services such as operator assistance and itemised billing are available. Ofcom also said it will open a consultation later this year about whether certain VoIP providers might be forced to offer access to emergency services numbers.
VoIP providers have attracted significant numbers of users by offering free calls between subscribers at both a national and international level and very cheap calls to other networks. Ofcom said that by the end of this year there could be as many as three million VoIP users in the UK, as companies such as Skype, BT and Vonage see their customer bases swell. Most subscribers use the service as a secondary telecoms line within the home.