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UPD Entanet UK Call for Consumers to Pay for Rejected Broadband Complaints

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012 (11:39 am) - Score 783

Communications provider Entanet, which supplies broadband services to a number of ISPs in the UK, has controversially suggested that Ofcom’s official consumer complaint schemes should force customers to “pay for the costs” if their complaint against an internet provider is rejected.

Today’s criticism stems from Ofcom’s recent introduction of several vague new “decision making principles”, which are designed to help its two Alternative Dispute Resolution schemes reach “better outcomes” and fair compensation awards for customers affected by poor broadband ISP or phone service (here).

The regulator requires all ISPs to be members of an approved ADR, which consumers can use after a dispute has gone unresolved for 8 weeks (sooner if you’ve been able to get a deadlock letter from your ISP). But some ISPs have frequently complained that the system is open to abuse (example), with others privately using the word “blackmail“.

The reason for this, as Entanet’s Product Manager (Paul Heritage-Redpath) explains, is because ISPs are, “forced to pay the costs of the ADR scheme even when a customer’s dispute is rejected“. This can amount to several hundred pounds and meanwhile the ADR “service will remain completely free of charge to the end user“.

Paul Heritage-Redpath added (blog):

Elsewhere in English law it is commonplace that the losing party pays for the costs and we believe this would be a more appropriate solution. Once again it seems that Ofcom have the best of intentions but have provided little in the way of detail.

Ofcom must recognise that strong guidelines MUST be given in order to unify the two schemes to achieve a level of consistency. Not doing so shows Ofcom to be rather toothless in this area, leaving the schemes to potentially diverge further from Ofcom’s wishes.”

Entanet fears that Ofcom’s plan to unify the ADR schemes, “will fail if they do not add some detail to their aims, outlining the definitive process to be followed and providing at least guideline figures for claims“. But, despite the strong criticism, Entanet still claims to “fully support the need for ADR schemes” and admits that their solution is “highly unlikely” to be adopted.

Meanwhile Ofcom remains “satisfied that both Schemes continue to meet the approval criteria” and believes that the cost of working with an ADR should be taken as a natural part of the ISPs regulatory compliance.

ISPreview.co.uk isn’t convinced that the solution to this problem is one best served by potentially threatening heavy charges against end-users. ADR’s exist to protect consumers because some ISPs (especially big providers) don’t play fair, yet it should not be forgotten that internet provision can be a technically complex service to understand, which gives rise to confusion and sometimes mistakes are made. At the same time the concerns raised by ISPs cannot be dismissed.

A greater degree of respect for the ISPs contract terms and some common sense oversight, imposed by Ofcom, might thus provide a better structure for halting potentially frivolous disputes before they even begin. Easier said than done. It should also be stressed that this problem, according to Ofcom, is only very small but then it would only take a few such incidents to start costing smaller ISPs a bucket load of cash.

UPDATE 1:14pm

The Director of AAISP, Adrian Kennard, has praised Entanet for echoing his own “serious doubts” about the ADR process and warnings over the danger from an “obvious blackmail scenario” with the current system.

Adrian Kennard said (blog):

I appreciate that consumers do not want to be put off making valid complaints. They should not be. There are, indeed, many cases where ISPs and telcos make mistakes. Even we make mistakes, though we always aim to rectify them fairly and promptly if we do.

I agree with Enta, failed ADR should have a cost, even if not the full cost, so that consumers only take real cases forward. They should not be put off, but even if they have to spend £50 up front, that would screen out the people taking the ****. Of course, as soon as you do this, then why on earth do we need ADR anyway when the county courts do such a good job for such a reasonable price in the first place. What we need is the courts to be less scary for people, not ADR at all.”

Kennard, whom rarely shy’s away from controversy, claims that the small claims court is a potentially better approach, yet he rightly points out that courts can sometimes appear “scary” to ordinary consumers and resolving this could be one of the solutions.

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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 Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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18 Responses
  1. DanielM says:

    no i know which ISP not to use. Someone as ***** as Entanet who cares nothing for there customers..

    1. Phil says:

      I agree, Entanet is.. [Admin note: removed potentially slanderous remark, please keep it clean]

    2. DanielM says:

      Mark mark… Do i see censorship there 😀

    3. Mark Jackson says:

      Not unless I really.. really have to. But when potentially slandering an entire business it’s perhaps wise not to make it into a statement and to instead put “In my opinion” in front 😉 .

  2. DTMark says:

    I’m still puzzled by the need for this ‘ADR’ thing. Can anyone give any examples of what it’s for? Why would I ever need to use such a thing? Isn’t it easier just to migrate away from a poor supplier?

    Having a look at the page about it, it cites an example of incorrect billing. We had this. We raised it as an issue. The supplier then proceeded to ignore the letters and just cut the service off. I’ll leave you to guess who that was. That was when we upgraded from ADSL to 3G HSPA (I’d like to thank said company for that, as otherwise we’d still have really slow narrowband internet) and didn’t need a phone line again, but if we had, then we could have got one from someone else.

    In that case we refused to pay the “early contract cancellation” charge they tacked on, wrote and told them so, and they wrote it off and organised a final bill. Which was still wrong. So we didn’t pay it. That was years ago. They did not correspond, so we wrote to tell them we considered the matter closed. Still no reply. Matter closed. Annoying at the time, but hardly the end of the world.

    The only bit I can see where some sort of regulator becomes involved is compensating the customer for consequential loss, which is a civil matter which can be dealt with by the standard small claims system anyway.

    What am I missing here? Clearly it would seem to be to the customers’ advantage but I’m struggling to see why this exists in this industry specifically.

    1. My guess would be that Ofcom simply got fed up dealing with residential customers calling them up all the time to moan that their broadband did not work etc.

  3. DanielM says:

    As much as i have respect for adrian. His small claims court idea sounds terrible. Think about it. ISP’s with thousands or even hundreds of thousands at there disposal for legal rep. While the average consumer has almost nothing.

    The customer needs protection as does the ISP.

    1. Nicholas Barnes says:

      Except that the small claims courts are specifically set up for the purpose of hearing Joe Public’s cases – legal representation is generally frowned on by a judge who will make every attempt to get a balanced view of the facts regardless of whether the claimant is young/old/intelligent/otherwise.

    2. DTMark says:

      I find myself agreeing with Adrian. On many things. Including this one.

  4. Deduction says:

    Its quite simple…….. ENTANET AND AAISP PAY ATTENTION.

    Keep your customers happy and they wont have anything (right or wrong) to complain about. Obviously thats too much to ask though.

    1. Chad H says:

      Looks like a lot of Knee Jerk reactions to the ADR scheme… Perhaps if you’d read the AAISP story that turned them off ADR you’d have a different view. If I remember right, it goes a little something like this.

      AAISP was contracted to provide a media services company (arguably a communications provider) with an internet service in time for the Olympics. Although it didn’t quite work as intended on the day that it was installed, it was fully operational by the agreed date.

      The Company wanted compensation for not having full access to the service dispite the service being fully operational by the agreed date, and not being charged for the days it was only partially operational.

      AAISP rightly refused on the grounds that the contract had been met and performed as agreed. The Media company decided to go to ADR.

      Now, the ADR should have been rejected out of hand – as arguably a communications provider, the ADR process should not have been available, but Otelo decided to deal with it anyway.

      Otelo agreed with AAISP that they had performed the contract, as agreed, however they still insisted that AAISP pay not just for the complaint being raised (£350), but also a goodwill gesture (which the custoemr did not ask for) for reasons known only to Otelo.

      So the moral of the story seems to be, if you want your ISP to give you money – even if it hasn’t done soemthing wrong – simply threaten an ADR, it will be cheaper for them to pay you off as there is no justice available there for ISPs.

      AAISP have said they will pay your costs to go to court instead of ADR, so they’re being more than fair – they just want a fair judge and fair process.

    2. Deduction says:

      “….AAISP was contracted to provide a media services company (arguably a communications provider) with an internet service in time for the Olympics.”

      Errr NO their whining about the ADR scheme dates back to long, long, long before the olympics.

    3. Nicholas Barnes says:

      Royal wedding, not Olympics. IIRC.

    4. Chad H says:

      Indeed their winging does, however it does not detract from the point shown here – that thanks to the ADR system they have to pay out for something that is clearly not their fault, and have to pay effectively damages in a situation that no court in the land would order them to.

      Welcome to the ADR, where if you’re an ISP even if you win, you lose.

    5. DTMark says:

      Thanks Chad H.

      The dilemma I might have as a consumer:

      I personally trust AAISP to deliver as best they can. (That phrasing is key to this)

      If there were any infrastructure present in this area over which they could deliver a usable broadband service (our line is only capable of about 2 to 3Meg) then I would use them. Instead I have to rely on HSPA (3G).

      Now, AAISP have contributed the precise sum of absolutely nothing to infrastructure (hurrah from BT for that recognition, perhaps).

      On the other hand, I might well end up being shafted by BT’s incompetence since AAISP rely on them.

      AAISP are, in that instance however, assuming I put the line rental with them – which I would, you don’t mix and match line rental and broadband if you want accountability – are entirely responsible for fulfilment of contract as the only contracted party.

      And AAISP have no choice whatsoever in their choice of supplier.

    6. Chad H says:

      They don’t have a choice in their supplier for some services, but some of their broadband runs through LLU offerings from companies like O2.

  5. anon says:

    Another company who rips customers off all these think of is the coin nothing more for customer services .

    1. Nicholas Barnes says:

      As much as I dislike Enta, in this case I have to agree with them. They are not saying “We want the opportunity to screw over customers with no come-back”. What they are saying is simply that the ADR process is broken.

      In AAISP’s case, the arbitrator agreed that AAISP were 100% in the right and the customer was 100% in the wrong. Despite this, they still awarded a good will payment to the customer. I am having a hard time understanding why anybody would think that this is how the system should work.

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