When will Ofcom do an Impact Assessment?

Wednesday, October 19th 2011

It is the belief of Ofcom, the regulator, that the induction of Impact Assessment in the process of policy making is the best way to gain the whole hearted support of the stakeholders, citizens and consumers. The type of decision Ofcom intends to make decide the nature of Impact assessment. The nature of Impact Assessment will be different for a detailed minutely focused policy proposal and a wide-ranging strategic review.

As per Section 7 of the Act, when Ofcom proposes to do anything in relation to its functions, the regulator is bound to publish an Impact Assessment as well as its proposal. The Act considers the proposal ‘important’ as it might involve a change in Ofcom’s activities, or it might cause an impact on the people who do business where the market is controlled by Ofcom, or a significant impact on the public at large in the UK.

When Ofcom makes an ‘important’ proposal, an impact Assessment should also be carried out. Some times the urgency of the matter may force the regulator to deviate from this procedure. Again sometimes Ofcom may decide that Impact assessment is not needed and in such cases it has to publish a statement showing reasons why impact assessment became unnecessary. For example with regard to a particular issue, an impact assessment is produced. After some time, if another impact assessment is to be produced on the same issue, the later could be avoided. Here impact assessment becomes unnecessary.

According to the Act, on a wide ranging scale impact assessment has to be carried out. The proposal being ‘important’ within the strict meaning of the terms referred in the Act or not, could be decided after debate. Ofcom employs the impact assessment in almost all their policy decisions. Rare exceptions are also there. While conducting an investigation, Ofcom won’t resort to impact assessment. Hence Ofcom as well won’t carry out impact assessment while resolving a dispute relating to regulation. Again there won’t be any impact assessment while publishing guidance stating the way in which the regulator is going to conduct an investigation.

The Act also stipulates that Ofcom should publish in their annual report all the details of impact assessments. This will provide all the stakeholders an opportunity to adjudicate whether the regulator has fulfilled all their commitments or not.

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