Under the present system, consumers must allow twelve weeks for their communications provider to resolve their problem before taking their complaint to a dispute resolution service.
But from 1 September consumers will be able to use the dispute resolution service eight weeks after making an initial complaint to the communications provider.
Ofcom receives thousands of calls each week from consumers who are dissatisfied with their provider.
A communications provider should be allowed a reasonable amount of time to resolve a consumer’s complaint but our research shows that complaints are almost as likely to remain unresolved at twelve weeks as they are at eight.
How to make a complaint
All communications providers must have and comply with an Ofcom-approved Code of Practice for complaints and be a member of an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme.
There are currently two Ofcom-approved schemes – CISAS and Otelo – which offer free dispute resolution services to consumers.
A customer sent a letter terminating two mobile telephone accounts. The company said that only one of the contracts was to be terminated and chased the customer for payment of the other account.
The Adjudicator found that the letter plainly referred to both accounts and, to reflect the damage done to the customer by the wrong credit entry being made by the company, compensation of £600 was awarded. The company was directed to give an explanation and a full apology to the customer.
A consumer contacted a provider and asked for a basic package but was placed onto a more expensive one. The consumer complained to the provider so they downgraded the consumer but charged them for it in their next bill. The provider failed to respond to the consumer’s complaints.
The Ombudsman considered the consumer to have received a shortfall in customer service and required the provider to credit the disputed charge, apply a goodwill credit and send consumer a letter of apology.
Following an application by a consumer, the relevant scheme will examine the case.
Any decision is binding and the communications provider could be required to take necessary action and may include financial compensation for the consumer.
If a communications provider does not comply with these regulations, Ofcom is able to fine it up to 10 per cent of its annual relevant turnover.
Ofcom has a consumer guide which will help you through the complaints process and tell what you need to do each step of the way.
Review of ADR schemes
Ofcom has also set out the criteria we intend to use in our review of the approval of ADR schemes, scheduled for 2010.
We will be making sure that the schemes are accessible, independent, fair, efficient, transparent, effective and accountable.
Ofcom Chief Executive Ed Richards, said: ‘The vast majority of consumers are happy with their telecoms services.
‘For the minority who aren’t we want to ensure that customers get a fair and swift resolution to their disputes.’
Advice and complaints
Your fixed line, mobile and internet
Our job is to make sure that phone companies treat you fairly.
Our advice and monitoring forms
TV and Radio Programmes
Are you concerned about a programme you have seen on television or listened to on the radio?
Find out how to complain
TV and Radio reception problems
The BBC are responsible for investigating complaints of interference to domestic radio and television.
Advice and how to report a problem
Stay up to date
The Communications Market
The Consumer Experience