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Regulator demands complaint handling standards for telcos

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6th Jan 2010
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Telcos attracted around 1,000 complaints a month in the UK last year, with a third of problems not resolved within three months. Now regulator Ofcom wants action.

Regulator Ofcom is taking action to ensure telcos improve their customer complaint handling procedures after research indicated that almost a quarter of the UK population raised issues with their operators last year.

But to make matter’s worse, mobile, broadband or landline providers failed to resolve the matter within 12 weeks in a huge 30% of cases – the equivalent of three million customers – causing consumers either financial hardship or unnecessary stress.

This meant that Ofcom, which has a duty to oversee complaints procedures under section 52(3) of the Communications Act 2003, received an average of 1,000 complaints per month in 2009.

As a result, the watchdog is now keen for telcos to introduce basic minimum standards for handling complaint procedures and has launched a public consultation on the issue, which is due to close on 12 March.

Proposed activity includes ensuring that operators set out clear timeframes for complaint resolution and publish such procedures in an easily accessible area of their website.

The regulator also wants service providers to include information about free alternative dispute resolution (ADR) schemes such as Cisas and Otleo on all consumer bills as it said that too many people were unaware that such services existed.

Telcos must also write to consumers whose complaints have not been sorted out within eight weeks to appraise them of their right to use ADR schemes. Ofcom likewise indicated that it was currently evaluating how to make operators’ performance more transparent in relation to complaint handling.

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