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Ofcom Probe ISP UKFSN and Start ADR Complaints Enforcement Programme

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014 (11:15 am) - Score 1,192

The UK telecoms regulator has re-started its monitoring and enforcement programme to check whether broadband and phone providers are giving consumers the required access to an approved Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) complaints handler. As part of this they’ve also begun an investigation of the UK Free Software Network (UKFSN), a small ISP run by Jason Clifford.

Under the existing rules – General Condition 14 (GC14.5 – Dispute Resolution) – all ISPs in the United Kingdom are required to be members of an approved ADR scheme like CISAS or Ombudsman Services, which are designed to supplement (not replace) the ISPs own internal complaints procedures and are only used after a dispute has gone unresolved for 8 weeks (the “Deadlock Letter” stage).

The ADR process is a very useful tool for consumers, albeit an unpopular one among ISPs (i.e. they still have to pay up to around £350 +vat in fees to the ADR regardless of whether or not they win), but some smaller providers continue to flout the rules by wrongly assuming that they don’t have to offer an ADR or by failing to make customers aware that one is available. As a result Ofcom has re-opened its monitoring scheme to check compliance with the rules.

Sadly it looks like Jason Clifford, the owner (sole trader) of little known vISP the UK Free Software Network, appears to be the first in Ofcom’s new firing line.

Ofcoms Statement

Ofcom has opened this investigation following assessment of evidence regarding whether UKFSN is a member of an approved Dispute Resolution Scheme.

Under GC14.5 Communications Providers (CPs) must implement, and comply, with an Ofcom approved independent Dispute Resolution Scheme for their domestic and small business customers, in relation to the provision of public electronic communications services.

Ofcom’s investigation will examine whether there are reasonable grounds for believing that UKFSN has failed to comply with its obligations under GC14.5.

Readers of ISPreview.co.uk will recall that the UKFSN was officially struck-off and dissolved by Companies House (former company no. 05292112) last year (here), although Clifford then continued to run the business as a sole trader (i.e. running UKFSN as an individual) and pledged that “customers should not see any change“.

Since then there have been mixed reports of service and support problems and we note that UKFSN’s Code of Practice makes the following statement: “If we fail to resolve any dispute between you and ukfsn.org in a satisfactory manner and at least 12 weeks have passed since our receipt of your complaint you may refer your dispute with us to the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) service provided by [still arranging this!]. This ADR service is free to you.” In other words, UKFSN doesn’t have an ADR and is in contravention of Ofcom’s rule.

UPDATE 12th August 2014

Ofcom has closed their investigation into UKFSN after the ISP finally got itself added to one of the regulators approved ADR schemes, Cisas.

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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.
Leave a Comment
5 Responses
  1. Bob2002 says:

    UKFSN used to be OK but I’ve heard numerous recent complaints about bad (generally not replying to customer queries) service. Can’t understand why Jason has let things slip this far.

    1. adslmax says:

      I used to be with UKFSN before as Jason always polite and reply to my emails. That’s was a long time ago. I was shocked that Jason doesn’t care about customers anymore.

  2. user says:

    I’ve never had a problem in several years with UKFSN. (More than I could say about the abysmal Tiscali & others in the past.)

    There will always be complaints. £350 + VAT a complaint (win or lose) might be enough to put a very small ISP out of business. That’s not good.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      That’s certainly a fair point, one complaint could be worth a huge slice of the profits for a small operation.

  3. britain a place not to live says:

    these no brains named above are total shambles they are pathetic and they think they no better when they know nothing and they say this and that and do the opposite like the stupid government monkeys could run it better .

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