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Ofcom Review the UK Performance of ADR Consumer Complaints Handlers

Friday, March 31st, 2017 (10:52 am) - Score 588
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Ofcom has today launched a ‘Call for Inputs‘ on their plan to review the performance of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) providers, which are third-party ombudsman schemes that help consumers to resolve complaints with broadband, phone and mobile providers etc.

At present the UK telecoms and media regulator requires that all broadband ISPs become members of an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme. The schemes are free for consumers to access and designed to supplement (not replace) an ISPs own internal complaints procedure(s), although they are only used after a customer’s dispute has gone unresolved for 8 weeks (i.e. the “Deadlock Letter” stage).

Currently Ofcom have approved two ADR providers – CISAS and Ombudsman Services. The latter recently claimed that UK people made 55 million complaints during 2016 and 13% were telecoms related (here). Never the less Ofcom is obliged to keep their approval of the ADR schemes under review and as such they are now carrying out a review of performance.

Generally speaking the ADR system does a good job for consumers, although many ISPs remain very unhappy with it because they can be forced to pay hundreds of pounds in ADR fees, even when a customer’s dispute is rejected by the ombudsman (example).

This can be a particularly difficult issue if you’re a smaller provider and lack the same security through economics of scale that larger providers enjoy, although luckily smaller ISPs usually focus more effort on quality and that helps to keep such complaints to a minimum.

On top of that Ofcom’s new Automatic Compensation scheme (here) will also allow consumers to take ISPs through an ADR process over related complaints, which could add further costs and complications to ISPs and that may ultimately push up prices. Some providers have already expressed concern that this could result in consumers ignoring Ofcom’s system and simply raising a complaint that demands even more money.

Adrian Kennard, MD of AAISP, told ISPreview.co.uk:

“A customer can simply say they feel they deserve compensation, or more compensation, and on that basis are entitled to go to ADR. They do not even have to be “dishonest”, they just have to feel they deserve more, and that constitutes a “complaint” over which they can threaten ADR.

Why set missed appointment compensation at only £30? An end user can say ‘I think I deserve £100, pay up or I go to ADR, costing you £350‘.”

At this stage Ofcom has not proposed any specific changes, although they could remove or add new ADR providers to the scheme and impose stricter standards if they so desired. The regulator’s consultation will thus remain open until 12th May 2017 and they hope to then publish their conclusions by autumn 2017.

Further details of how ADR providers work can be found under our ISP Complaints and Advice section

Ofcom’s ADR Review
https://www.ofcom.org.uk/consultations-and-statements/category-2/adr-review-17

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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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