The Metering & Billing Approval Bodies' Forum (MABABF)

History

1984 Telecommunications Act

With the introduction of competition in providing Telecommunications Services, a concern arose about how an End-User could be assured that his bill would be accurate. The 1984 Telecommunications Act (24.6) contained a provision that the Secretary of State (SS) or the Director General (DG) of Oftel (The Office of Telecommunications) could set an Accuracy Standard for the “Meters” used to prepare bills. The “Meter” was defined as “Any apparatus constructed or adapted to record the extent of usage of a Telecommunications Service”, which neatly covered both the electromechanical device then in common use and its digital replacement.

Having set a Standard, the DG or SS had authority (24.1) to “Approve” Meters that met the Standard, and the power to delegate the Approval Process (25.1) if he saw fit. BABT was appointed to approve Meters in November 1988, and operated the Scheme until the 2003 Communications Act came into force.

Every “operator” needed a licence, and part of that licence required the operator to seek approval for the Meters used.

OTR003

The Standard set was “Oftel Technical Requirement no 3” or OTR003, and this was revised a number of times. In addition to looking at Meters, requirements concerning the accuracy of Billing Systems were introduced, culminating in OTR003:2001.

2003 Communications Act

The 1984 Act was superseded in 2003, and a number of changes were made to way that Billing Accuracy was assessed and Approved. Operator Licences were replaced by “General Conditions of Entitlement”, enabling any person to run a service. Condition 11 required those “Communications Providers” of a certain size to Apply for Metering and Billing Approval.

The OTR003:2001 Standard was converted into the “Oftel Metering and Billing Direction” in order to align it with the wording of the 2003 Act.

Alongside BABT, two other Approvals Bodies were appointed by the Secretary of State in March 2002. They were the British Standards Institution (BSI) and National Quality Assurance (NQA). It then became necessary to ensure that all three Bodies applied the Assessment criteria in the same way, and the “Metering and Billing Approval Bodies' Forum” (MABABF) was born. All Approvals Bodies required to be Accredited by UKAS as meeting the requirements of EN45011, which is appropriate to Assessment bodies determining compliance with a numerical Standard.

In the Autumn of 2007, NQA decided to withdraw from the Scheme, leaving BABT and BSI as the two Appointed Approvals Bodies. In 2010, Enigma QPM were also appointed as an Approval Body.