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AAISP Cast Doubt Over Effectiveness of New UK ISP Complaint Handler Rules

Thursday, Aug 23rd, 2012 (10:33 am) - Score 375

The boss of broadband provider AAISP (Andrews & Arnold) has warned that Ofcom’s new “decision making principles“, which are designed help the Alternative Dispute Resolution consumer complaint handlers reach a “fair and reasonable outcome” for both ISPs and customers alike, might not have much of an impact.

Ofcom, which introduced the new guidelines yesterday (here), noted that a small number of complaints carried forward through an ADR had “delivered inconsistent outcomes” for consumers. That’s a rather polite way of saying that the ADR had reached the wrong conclusion.

One of the biggest gripes from ISPs is that they’re often charged hundreds of pounds in compensation payments and or fees, regardless of whether or not the ADR rules in favour of the disgruntled customer (example). In other words, even when an ADR agrees that an ISP has done everything right and or fully compensated the customer, the ISP still has to pay. In other cases consumers who had won a complaint via ADR were not awarded the correct compensation.

The regulator’s solution to these problems has been to introduce a new set of decision making principles, which require ADR schemes to streamline their approach by ensuring that both the consumer and ISP are “treated fairly … so that neither is unduly disadvantaged“. It sounds good, if a perhaps a little vague, but AAISP fears that such principles might simply be ignored.

Adrian Kennard, Director of AAISP, said:

Well, all looks well and good. But then terms for people like OS looked fine on paper – with clauses like respecting the T&Cs agreed between consumer and CP, etc. But in practice such terms were (in our case) completely disregarded and many of the clauses in the documented process disregarded. So it is hard to see if new OFCOM guidelines will help matters or not.

What I could not see anywhere was the word “appeal”. This is what is sadly lacking. When processes are not correctly followed there should be a right to appeal. This is pretty fundamental in legal processes so why have OFCOM not added that?”

Ultimately ADR’s exist to protect consumers because some internet providers don’t play fair with their customers, especially big ISPs where serious mistakes do happen. At the same time an ADR scheme should not be used to penalise ISPs that do play fair. Luckily such instances appear to be quite uncommon.

Ofcom has promised to ensure that its new guidelines are “working well in practice” and will keep them under review.

Mark-Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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