Ofcom overhauls broadband complaints process

Ofcom will force ISPs and telcos to advise consumers of dispute resolution services after three million complaints went unresolved last year.

Ofcom overhauls broadband complaints process

Although the massive number of complaints went unresolved, only a quarter of consumers went to either of the two telco dispute resolution services – CISAS and Otelo – because they did not know about the services, according to the regulator’s research.

As a result, according to an Ofcom spokesperson, “providers will now have to write to consumers when complaints haven’t been resolved within eight weeks to inform them of their right to take their complaint to a dispute resolution service”.

The news has been welcomed as a step in the right direction by consumer groups, but still means consumers face an open-ended battle over their grievances.

First, they have to wait for eight weeks for the case to go to the dispute resolution service – then wait for a ruling. According to Ofcom, this is completed “as soon as possible, depending on how complicated the case is and how long it takes to come up with the facts”.

Ofcom’s research showed customers were more likely to complain to their broadband provider than either their mobile or landline provider, with 12% of consumers complaining to their broadband provider, compared with 10% for mobile and 7% for landline services.

In a bid to make the process of complaining simpler, Ofcom says it will establish a mandatory universal code of conduct for complaints within the industry.

“At the moment each provider has its own complaints code of practice, but we plan on having a central standardised code that everyone will have to adhere to,” an Ofcom spokesperson told PC Pro.

The regulator said the code would give it powers to take enforcement action against providers who do not treat complainants fairly and that the code would come into force on 22 January 2011.

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