Nearly 3 million consumers failed to resolve complaints with their broadband or phone provider after 12 weeks in 2009, and 77% were unaware that a free resolution service was available for them to use according to a complaints procedure review by Ofcom. Two alternative dispute resolution (ADR) companies exist, CISAS and Otelo, and all broadband and telecoms companies must subscribe to one of these.
In September 2009 Ofcom reduced the time from 12 weeks to 8 weeks before complaints could be taken to one of the alternate dispute resolution companies (ADR's). Ofcom is not satisfied that that the standards of complaints handling in the communications industry is sufficient and is establishing a minimum standard for complaints handling procedures which will apply to all providers from January 2011. This will introduce a regulatory requirement for providers to resolve complaints in a "fair and timely manner" with minimum expectations of all providers' defined.
Also from July 2011 communications providers will have to provide details about the relevant complaints procedure and ADR details on all paper bills. They will also be required to write to consumers to advise of their right to go to ADR after 8 weeks of an unresolved complaint. This may not help in all cases as many consumers have trouble getting their provider to recognise they are trying to make a complaint.
"We want to make sure that when something goes wrong, consumers are able to find out easily how to make a complaint and can be assured that their provider will be able to handle their complaint effectively."Ed Richards, (Chief Executive) Ofcom
Statistics show that dispute resolution does work so hopefully these new rules to make them more accessible will help. Complaints about mobile providers that weren't resolved after 12 weeks and were then taken to ADR were resolved in 91% of cases compared with only 51% where the complaint was not taken to ADR. The full Ofcom review of complaints procedures is available here.