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Improving consumer complaints handling processes

Slamming_headlineOfcom has today announced a range of proposals to improve communications providers’ processes for handling consumer complaints.

Recent Ofcom research shows consumer satisfaction with communications services remains high and between 86 and 92 per cent of people are fairly or very satisfied.

For those that do encounter a problem with their service, most who contact their provider are likely to have the matter promptly resolved to their satisfaction.

However, new research published today reveals:

  • 23 per cent of the population has made a complaint to a mobile, broadband or landline provider over the past year, with 30 per cent of those complaints remaining unresolved 12 weeks later (representing approximately 3 million consumer complaints)
  • those consumers who are unable to resolve their complaint relatively quickly are much more likely to have a poor experience; and
  • few complainants are aware they have the right to have their complaint examined by an independent dispute resolution scheme.

Proposals to improve complaints handling processes

Ofcom is proposing several initiatives to improve the existing regulation of complaints handling in the telecommunications industry:

  • Establishing some basic minimum standards for complaints handling for the telecommunications industry.

This will ensure the accessibility and transparency of providers’ complaints handling procedures and require providers to have processes in place to secure the fair and timely resolution of complaints.

For example, providers will have to publish their complaints processes in an accessible place on their website, provide low-cost options for consumers to make a complaint and set out established timeframes for complaint resolution.

  • Providing additional information to consumers to increase awareness of dispute resolution services, which have been shown to help resolve long-running complaints.

Under our proposals, providers will need to include relevant information about the Ofcom-approved dispute resolution services on all consumer bills and write to consumers whose complaints have not been resolved within 8 weeks to inform them of their right to go to a dispute resolution service.

  • Ofcom is also considering future steps it may take to improve transparency of the providers’ performance when handling consumer complaints which we believe could benefit both industry and consumers. We are seeking initial views on the merits of publishing various measures of provider-specific performance.

Ofcom Chief Executive, Ed Richards, said: ‘Consumers should be able to expect their provider to try and address complaints and, where the complaint cannot be resolved, they should be made aware of their right to a free and independent dispute resolution service.

‘Ofcom wants to work with industry to improve the complaints handling process for consumers who have cause to make a complaint.’

Click here to read the consultation. The closing date for responses is 12 March 2010.

Watch our video guide on how to complain if you have a problem with your communications provider.

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