Consumer Focus challenged Ofcom's copyright code of practice, warning that money could deter people on low income from disputing an alleged infringement
People accused of downloading music, films and other files illegally could be deterred from trying to prove their innocence because of the costs and the grounds on which they can appeal are unclear said Consumer Focus.
Each time a person wishes to challenge an accusation of illegal downloading, they will be given 20 working days in which to lodge an appeal; plus they will also have to pay £20 under proposals set out by Ofcom's draft of the copyright infringement code of practice.
If they get three letters in a year, they will be added to a copyright infringement list (CIL) and could eventually be taken to court by the copyright owner (CRO).
Consumer Focus, said it would now make submissions to the relevant committees in Parliament and see if the appeal fee can be removed or, at least, means tested.
Mike O'Connor, the consumer watchdog's chief executive, said: "Twenty pounds may sound like a small sum, but it could deter those living on low-incomes from challenging unfair allegations.
"This fee is intended to prevent "vexatious appeals". But this could be achieved without pricing low income consumers out of their right to appeal, by giving the Appeals body the power to fine those who have brought frivolous appeals."
Another problem Consumer Focus has highlighted in the code is how people can defend themselves against allegations and how robust the evidence gathering processes used by CROs will be.
O'Connor said: "The grounds for appeal rest on the person accused proving that they didn't download the infringing material or they ‘took reasonable steps' to stop others doing this.
"But this would be difficult, as it is not clear what constitutes ‘reasonable steps', and most consumers do not have the technical knowledge or the access to data to be able to prove their innocence."
Consumer Focus said it will make a "robust response" to Ofcom's consultation, which ends on 26 July.
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