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Ofcom Fines Care Free UK ISP £10K for ADR Complaints Failure UPDATE

Thursday, April 26th, 2018 (11:50 am) - Score 426
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The UK telecoms regulator has fined a small broadband and phone provider – Care Free Communications – some £10,000 after discovering that the ISP contravened their rules (GC14.5) by not being a member of an official ombudsman consumer complaints handler (ADR) scheme.

Under General Condition 14.5, all Internet Service Providers (ISP) are required to be members of an ADR scheme (i.e. CISAS or Ombudsman Services: Communications). The schemes are free for consumers to access and designed to supplement (not replace) an ISPs own internal complaints procedure(s), although they are usually only used after a dispute has gone unresolved for 8 weeks (see our ISP Complaints and Advice section).

A quick look at Care Free’s website reveals a complaints document (here), which was last updated on 1st January 2017 and this states that they are or were members of ‘Ombudsman Services‘. However Ofcom disagrees and notes that the ISP may have been a member of an ADR in the recent past, but this stopped in the spring of 2017.

Back in February 2018 the regulator also noted that, just before its membership of an ADR scheme was terminated, Care Free had “failed to comply with a number of final decisions that had been made under the ADR Scheme.”

Ofcom’s Statement

Our investigation found that Care Free contravened GC 14.5 by not being a member of an ADR Scheme since at least 28 March 2017, and for failing to comply with final decisions issued since 10 October 2016 when it was a member of an ADR Scheme.

We have, therefore, issued Care Free with a Confirmation Decision under section 96C of the Act.

This includes the imposition of a financial penalty of £10,000 on Care Free in respect of its contraventions of GC 14.5 between 10 October 2016 and 24 April 2018.

Care Free must also pay a penalty of £100 for every day that it continues to fail to be a member of an ADR Scheme.

In accordance with the Confirmation Decision, Care Free has until 24 May 2018 to remedy its non-compliance and join an ADR Scheme. The daily penalty will accrue during this period.

A quick look at the Companies House records for the provider also shows that they’ve been through various changes of address and briefly received a notice for compulsory strike-off during August 2017, which was discontinued a day later.

UPDATE 11th May 2018

This case has now closed. Ofcom have evidence that Care Free has re-joined an ADR scheme as at 9th May 2018. The total penalty issued to Care Free is £11,500. This includes a fixed penalty of £10,000 and a penalty totalling £1,500 for its failure to be a member of an ADR scheme from 24th April 2018 to 8th May 2018.

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