Review of ADR in the telecoms sector Call for Inputs

ukcta_publicPolicy papers

18th January 2024

UKCTA: Submission
By email

UKCTA is pleased to have the opportunity to respond to the Call for inputs in relation to the review of ADR in the telecoms sector.

We note that Ofcom intends to consider the amount of time a consumer has to wait before submitting a case for alternative dispute resolution (currently 8 weeks). In carrying out its analysis, we would expect Ofcom to refer to its previous analysis in December 2016 when it considered that a shorter period was not necessary for the following main reasons:[1]

  • the cumulative effect of Ofcom’s ADR should be, primarily, to ensure that complaints are resolved more quickly by CPs or, in what Ofcom considered would be the minority of cases, our proposals should make it clear more quickly that a complaint cannot be resolved, and an ADR Letter must be issued by the CP so the complaint can be referred to ADR;
  • there was insufficient evidence in 2016 to justify proposing a shorter period – in this respect, Ofcom concluded that the additional record keeping requirements as a result of the 2016 review would assist Ofcom in understanding whether a shorter period may be warranted and, if so, what that period might be;
  • the eight-week period was consistent with the approach taken in other regulated sectors (e.g. energy and financial services);
  • Ofcom emphasised that its ADR rules are meant to be minimum standards – CPs would not be prevented from imposing their own higher standards such as, for example, a commitment to refer complaints to ADR if they have not been resolved with a period of time that is less than eight weeks.

In order to ensure consistency in Ofcom’s decision-making process, we would expect Ofcom’s analysis to be based on a comprehensive assessment of all of the points considered relevant in 2016 and, if any change were indeed to be considered, what facts have changed compared to its previous assessment.

We note that Ofcom has included in its scope consideration an option to withdraw approval of one or both ADR schemes.[1]  We do not consider that Ofcom should consider an option which leaves the market with only one ADR entity. There should always be a minimum of two, to ensure quality of service for both providers and consumers. As Ofcom is aware, in recent years, some providers have switched between the ADR providers when service quality has dropped. Facilitating access to more than a single ADR scheme provides a level of competition and accountability that is as critical in the ADR arena, as it is for the provision of communications services to our customers.  We request that the scope of the consultation to come, clarifies that even if approval were withdrawn for one or both ADR providers, that two or more ADR providers would take their places.

UKCTA looks forward to being further involved in the formal review of the operation of ADR in the telecoms sector later in the year when Ofcom publishes its planned update.