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ISPA UK Sets Out Proposals to Improve Consumer ISP Complaint Handling

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014 (2:02 pm) - Score 720

The Public Affairs Manager for the UK Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA), Andrew Kernahan, has today set out what sort of changes they’d like to see in order to improve Ofcom’s Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process for handling serious consumer complaints against broadband providers. Would you support a pay to complain system?

All ISPs are legally required to be members of an approved ADR scheme like CISAS or Ombudsman Services, which are designed to supplement (not replace) the providers own internal complaints procedures and are only used after a dispute has gone unresolved for 8 weeks (the “Deadlock Letter” stage).

The process is important in order to help protect consumers against unscrupulous ISPs with poor customer service and support, although some providers feel as if the ADR services are effectively incentivised to take on as many complaints as they can (including potentially vexatious ones) because, win or lose, the ISP is still forced to pay up to around £350 +vat in fees (example problems here and here).

The ISPA claims to support the ADR process but they also want to see improvements. Now Andrew Kernahan, writing in a blog post for Entanet today (here), has clarified some of the key changes that the ISPA would like to see Ofcom make and we’ve summarised those below.

ADR Proposals by the UK ISPA

* ADR providers should have an initial screening process to stop vexatious complaints from being ruled on.

* Ofcom needs to better monitor and question ADR statistics.

* Ofcom should look at what lessons can be learned from other systems, such as the small claims court where cases are heard quickly, with features like a small claimant fee to prevent vexatious applications.

* ISPA would also like more transparency from ADR providers over decisions, with clearer reasoning why a complaint was either upheld or rejected. ISPA members also need more clarity over the exact remit of ADR.

One of the most controversial points above is likely to be the reference to a “small claimant fee” (i.e. if you want to pursue your complaint to ADR then you may have to pay for the privilege), which could help to discourage “vexatious” complaints but it also runs the risk of hindering honest gripes. Entanet has previously called for a similar approach (here).

The matter is currently the subject of an on-going Government consultation and debate with Ofcom concerning the future of ADRs. At present nobody expects the ADR process to be scrapped and if anything Europe would like to see this approach expanded to cover more sectors. Never the less there could be some big changes around the corner, although the parties concerned will need to tread carefully.

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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 Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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4 Responses
  1. Avatar DTMark says:

    I still fail to see the point of the scheme. I would have thought that in many cases, it’s the ISP that might want to seek redress, not the customer.

    Example: ISP overbills customer. Customer does not pay, or, if a DD exists, has the bank reverse it. Customer tells ISP that billing is wrong. Up to the ISP to fix or argue the point in the small claims court perhaps.

    Example: ISP performance appalling. Customer cancels account/migrates away. ISP wants customer to pay to end of term. Customer refuses. Up to the ISP to fix or argue the point in the small claims court perhaps.

    There are a stack of legal remedies available to consumers, perhaps the most pertinent is the legislation that the service provider “must carry out their duties under the contract with reasonable skill and care” or similar.

    The consumer can familiarise themselves with these quite easily through many online groups and forums should the need arise.

    So what is this body for, exactly?

  2. Avatar Raindrops says:

    Pathetic, why are certain ISPs happy for a customer to be subject to similarities of a a “small claims court” system?

    If they think that is such a wonderful system why are they not taking ADR handlers that rule on “vexatious” complaints to small claims to get their “fees” back. Hypocritical to say the least.

    The real answer here is to make ADRs a REAL middle ground where whoever loses pays the £350 fee. Rather than it being paid upfront by either side. All ofcom need do is just create one simple rule, that being an ADR can charge neither party any fee until a decision on who is in the “wrong” is made.

    Mind you i bet some ISPs would not be happy with that either, and try to claim the ADR will always rule in favour of the customer to ensure they get paid. Which of course would be utter nonsense as thats what the “wonderful smail claims court” system can be used for by them if a customer oudn to be in the wrong doesn’t pay.

    It sickens me when any business, has the nerve to complain about the complainers.

    1. Avatar Raindrops says:

      Some ISPs do not seem to have issues spending money going after customers like this…
      I imagine a £350 fee in some cases is small in comparison to what they are paying some debt agencies.

  3. Avatar john says:

    well for complaints BT and TALKTALK will always have complaints because they get a buzz from them. BT cap your line and TALKTALK are just robots with scripts.

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