You may have heard of CICRA, the Channel Islands Competition and Regulatory Authorities, but do you know what they do?
From cutting the cost of conveyancing to helped push down the cost of mobile roaming, their work affects almost everyone living and working here in the islands.
We asked chief executive Michael Byrne: “What has CICRA ever done for us?”
It would be fair to say that the collective understanding of CICRA is somewhat patchy across Guernsey and Jersey. CICRA has a role as an economic regulator for Jersey and Guernsey telecommunications, Jersey airports and harbours and Jersey postal services. As the competition law enforcement body, CICRA also has a role to ensure markets are working well and respond to market events such as mergers, acquisitions and/or concerns about anti-competitive behaviour.
What does this actually mean in practise because it all sounds quite remote doesn’t it? It would first appear CICRA is not something that the average island business or consumer need concern themselves with. Of course the States politicians and civil servants in both islands know us well as do the sectors regulated by CICRA and anyone who comes into contact with us through our role as the competition law authority has cause to know us; why do we think it’s important that more people understand what we do and engage with us?
Engagement with businesses and consumers is central to CICRA’s work in our role to inform and protect consumers and ensure they receive value, choice and access to high quality services. The more people know about us, the better we can reflect society opinions in some crucial areas of island life.
Perhaps knowing what we have achieved over the past few years will give some context to CICRA’s work and demonstrate how our role has actually impacted us all.
The Guernsey and Jersey Competition and Regulatory Authorities merged in 2012 to become CICRA.
In a Jersey States Proposition it stated: “There has been a direct cost saving to regulated businesses in Jersey of over £100,000 a year as a result of the merger, and because the Jersey and Guernsey authorities each have access to a wider range of resources and expertise, the merger has also produced a significant gain in efficiency and effectiveness.”
CICRA ended set price conveyancing fees in 2008 in Jersey which led to competition for the first time and around £30 million has been saved by households to date. CICRA instigated mobile number portability with 46,000 of Jersey sims switched in nine years and 3,500 consumers changing fixed line providers because CICRA freed up the market and 19,000 Guernsey sims switched. We were instrumental in bringing a successful 4G rollout to the islands and, following a CICRA audit, the Channel Islands has higher average speeds than many in the UK and on a par with some of the best performing UK cities.
Pressure from CICRA, and support from islanders, showed the telecoms operators that high data roaming charges were not acceptable. In one example roaming charges have reduced from £3.99 at the start of 2017 to 19p/MB now. We’ve considered nine mergers in Jersey and three in Guernsey this year to ensure the consumer would not be disadvantaged and our involvement in market studies has resulted in cheaper school uniform prices for families and keener understanding of fuel prices in Jersey.
We opened the Channel Islands to competition for telecoms services and our decision to conduct telecoms customer service surveys every six months has seen a vast improvement in the quality of service by telecoms operators; they now react immediately to the results and have instituted a number of improvements. Jersey Ports has been held to a price freeze for users and we have relaxed the requirement for Jersey Post to publish its quarterly performance following demonstrable improvements in its quality of service.
So when we’re asked what does CICRA do for us? We can answer that our role is diverse and keeps markets working and informing and protecting consumers.
Enforcement of the competition law is often more difficult to grasp; much of what we do to solve potential issues of market dominance (cartels, price or bid fixing for example) goes on behind the scenes. Certainly we’re motivated to find solutions before the need for litigation. Under competition law CICRA is the bastion that ensures consumers get a fair deal when purchasing a product or service complementing the more hands-on, personal work that bodies like the Department of Fair Trading and Jersey Consumer Council do.
There is a lot happening across all the regulated sectors and within competition law enforcement in 2018. CICRA plans to be at the heart of all discussions around key activities such as the roll out of 5G mobile services, improvements in broadband, raising telecoms customer satisfaction levels, the effective enforcement of the competition law in both islands and the operations at Jersey’s harbours and airport and postal sectors. Here are the gritty details:
- Strategic objectives
- Competition law
- Postal strategic objectives
- Ports strategic objectives
- Telecoms strategic objectives
What is clear is CICRA will ensure we help foster an environment of value for money, choice, access to high quality services and innovation wherever possible and will inform and protect consumers where appropriate to do so. In order to do this we need islanders to have an opinion and voice it. We are looking at ways we can better engage and will be holding open surgeries, sector-specific round tables and there’s an open invitation to get in touch at any time on issues of concern.