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Ofcom Improves Consumer Complaints System
By: MarkJ - 10 July, 2008 (1:53 PM)

Ofcom has proposed several enhancements to its existing consumer complaints system after internal research showed that consumer awareness of complaints handling procedures is low. Less than 50% were aware of communications providers' Codes of Practice for Complaints, with 15% aware of at least one of the two ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) Schemes.

To help address this and to improve the effectiveness of the schemes, Ofcom is proposing the following changes to the current process:

1. Reducing the time consumers must wait before taking their complaint to an ADR Scheme, from 12 to eight weeks;

2. Requiring communications providers to write to consumers who have made a complaint to tell them that they have the right to ADR;

3. Having a single Ofcom Approved Complaints Code of Practice which all communications providers have to comply with, which sets out minimum standards for complaints handling procedures;

4. Requiring communications providers to keep records of complaints for 15 months, so that Ofcom can effectively monitor compliance and undertake enforcement action where necessary; and

5. Introducing limits on the call charges that are appropriate for complaints handling lines used by communications providers.

Sadly Ofcom does not appear to be doing enough to make sure that ISPs clearly publish the details of their complaints handler. It's incredibly difficult to find such information on the websites of most providers, perhaps deliberately so. The consultation runs until 4th October 2008 and Ofcom hopes to publish its Statement in early 2009.

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