Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/08/22/ofcom_middleman_dispute_shakeup/

Ofcom vows to smooth out ISP complaint complaints

'Inconsistencies' found in dispute handling

By Kelly Fiveash

Posted in Broadband, 22nd August 2012 13:28 GMT

Pissed-off punters can now benefit from what communications watchdog Ofcom has described as "an improved experience" when complaining about mobiles, landlines and broadband.

The regulator said it has held a major review of its Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) services, which act as middlemen between internet providers and upset customers, and added that new measures were now in place as a result.

It has been agreed that approved ADRs - the Ombudsman Services: Communications (OS) and the Communications and Internet Services Adjudication Service (CISAS) - will adhere to a set of common principles when mulling over gripes from telco users.

Ofcom claimed that those principles would "help safeguard against any potential inconsistencies in the way the schemes deal with and resolve consumer complaints, resulting in better outcomes for consumers".

As part of the deal, the ADRs have to adopt common compensation guidelines, the watchdog said.

"Effective redress for consumers is essential and by providing a free, independent service to consider disputes, ADR schemes play a key part in this. OS and CISAS have agreed to the new decision making principles, and Ofcom has therefore continued its approval of both of these ADR providers," said Ofcom consumer group director Claudio Pollack.

The schemes had met most of the criteria to deserve approved status from the regulator, but Ofcom's review uncovered that those ADRs had fallen short of effectively helping a small number of complaining customers, leading to "inconsistent outcomes".

CISAS saw a 56 per cent annual increase in grumbles from telco customers, while OS reported a 17 per cent jump, according to the most recent figures, Ofcom said.

Kim Brook, a member of the independent policy-advising Communications Consumer Panel, said in response to Ofcom's review: "It is vital that the schemes are not only consistent with each other, but also swift, fair, free and effective." ®