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Complaints Handler Ombudsman Services Returns to Normal

Thursday, June 25th, 2020 (3:35 pm) - Score 622
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Consumer complaints handler firm Ombudsman Services, which is an Ofcom approved Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) provider for UK broadband ISPs and mobile operators, has announced that it will return to normal requirements and timelines at the beginning of July 2020, following the COVID-19 crisis.

At present Ofcom requires all ISPs to become members of an approved ADR scheme – CISAS or Ombudsman Services. The schemes are free for consumers to access and designed to supplement (not replace) an ISPs own internal complaints procedure(s), although providers often have to pay sizeable costs regardless of whether they win or lose a case.

The ADR process is often seen as a last line of defence for consumers – before court action – and thus such schemes are generally only used after a dispute has gone unresolved for 8 weeks (i.e. the “Deadlock Letter” stage). Please see our ISP Complaints and Advice section for more information.

Like many organisations the ADR handler and telecoms providers both found themselves operating at significantly reduced capacity during the Coronavirus lockdown period, which meant that OS was only able to deal with service issues that affected the most vulnerable customers. The good news is that they’re now returning to normal.

Letter from OS to UK Telecoms Operators

Dear Chief Executive

Ombudsman Services response to Covid-19 and return to a more normal way of working

In April this year we wrote to you to outline the steps we were taking to adapt to the Covid-19 crisis. We set out the way we were aligning with industry in focussing on prioritising resources for the most vulnerable customers and how, where necessary, we would allow participating companies to do the same. Specifically, we:

* Prioritised in-flight complaints according to our assessment of customer vulnerability.

* Provided customers and suppliers additional time (an extra 28 days) to submit case evidence.

* Allowed suppliers to focus on only the most vulnerable complaints, where this was strictly necessary.

We believe this was the right approach and provided much needed breathing space as suppliers and customers adapted to new ways of working.

Following discussions with Ofcom, we have agreed that it is the right time to revisit these changes, and we wanted to explain what this means for our service.

In summary, we intend to return to normal requirements and timelines at the beginning of July. In practice, that means from 1 July 2020 the following changes will take effect:

* All suppliers will be required to deal with all Ombudsman cases – there will be no prioritisation at point of contact with customers.

* We will work with providers who have been working on only prioritised complaints to agree how to release any held (non-priority) cases in a staged and manageable way.

* The usual timeframes for providing evidence will apply – i.e. there will be no time extensions by default (the additional 28 days will not apply to new cases, but will remain for cases accepted up to and including 30 June).

If you have any queries, the Relationship Team will be available to explain what this means for your business specifically.

Should the Covid-19 situation change materially in the coming months, we will consider whether these changes remain appropriate. We also recognise that there may be exceptional situations that arise beyond a supplier’s (or a customer’s) control that mean it is not able operate as normal with these requirements on each case. Should such situations arise we will consider and accommodate these where possible, and I would encourage you to keep in close contact with our team over the coming months to ensure we are aware of any challenges you may be having.

I would like to thank you for your continued engagement during this period. I fully appreciate that this transition back to a more normal way of working will be challenging for some suppliers and I would like to assure you that we remain open to supporting you wherever we can.

Yours sincerely,

Matthew Vickers

Chief Executive and Chief Ombudsman

Leave a Comment
2 Responses
  1. Avatar PI Time says:

    Costs providers over £300 for a case to be deadlocked and reach Ombudsman, where as CISAS only charge £150…….

  2. Avatar Buggerlugz says:

    Which is why ignoring complaints about service and palming off customers is now the easy go-to solution for all unscrupulous ISPs.

    Have rubbish customer services, rubbish technical support, rubbish provision for backbone repairs, don’t bother investing in bandwidth and at the same time have zero chance of it costing them anything! Its a far better financial solution for all ISPs now to generally dismiss any criticism of service provision!

    Amazingly the regulator has become “Karen” in a critical part of the very problems its mandated to remedy.

    I’m going to say “Karen” instead of OFCOM in all my posts from now on.

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