Oftel now Ofcom complaints for telecommunications and Internet, communications by the Ombudsman (Otelo) or (CISAS) Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) services

by Colin Bryant, TelecomsAdvice

Ofcom requires all telecommunications operators to belong to an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme. It will advise on the process and monitor complaints but then refers complaints from individual consumers and small businesses (not more than 10 employees) to two external independent bodies - Ombudsman Services (previously the Office of the Telecommunications Ombudsman (Otelo)) and the Communication and Internet Services Ajudication Scheme (CISAS).

The ADR service is free for individuals and small businesses but before you can apply to Ombudsman Services or CISAS you must exhaust the telephone/communications company's customer complaints procedure and get a 'deadlock' letter - a communication saying they cannot or will not do anything more to address the issue - or you must have pursued the issue diligently for 8 weeks without resolution. You must apply to Ombudsman Services or CISAS within 9 months of the dispute arising and/or within 6 months of a deadlock letter.

There is a separate procedure for complaints between telecommunications companies about anti-competitive, non-compliance practices and regulatory issues.

If you have a complaint about a landline telephone, mobile phone or Internet access or telephony service we suggest the following procedure:

The Alternative Dispute Resolution service is free for individuals and small businesses but it is not fast or particularly easy. You have to make every effort to resolve the situation with the company directly before you can start the formal process.

Because it takes so long and because you may find it difficult to transfer your telephone service while there is an outstanding bill, and if you are in imminent danger of being cut-off over a billing dispute and you cannot afford to be without your phone or Internet service, then we advise you to pay the bill - but state in writing that you continue to dispute the bill and will be using the Ofcom complaints procedure to reclaim the disputed amount plus compensation.

However, before it gets to that stage, and to try to get quicker action whatever the issue, you should consider the following course of action:

Phone your communications provider’s customer services make a note of the time and how long it takes them to answer, ask who you are speaking to and write down their name.

Tell them calmly and in detail what the problem is and what you have done about it so far (make some notes first to refer to).

Be reasonable, if the person you are speaking to can’t immediately action your request or complaint ask them who will and when you can expect a response. Make notes ask them to spell names, don’t be rushed. If they can’t or won’t give you a satisfactory response tell them you want to escalate it to their supervisor.

Ask the supervisor’s name and make more notes. Try to keep calm and persevere.

Keep doing that until you get a satisfactory answer or they tell you they can’t escalate it further.

Tell them that you are prepared to use the Ofcom complaints procedure and will claim compensation. Ask them for the postal address of the company’s consumer complaints department and which Alternative Dispute Resolution service (ADR) they belong to (Cisas or Otelo). There is a list of comunications providers and the scheme to which they belong at Ofcom or possibly more up-to-date lists at Cisas and Ombudsman Services

Companies may belong to one scheme or the other, individually or by virtue of their membership of a trade association, i.e. The Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA), the Federation of Communication Services or the Internet Telephone Service Providers Association (ITSPA)

Terms and conditions can change rapidly - please check the Ofcom, Otelo and CISAS websites for more precise and up-to-date details covering:

Who can complain?

Services covered?


Member Companies?

Reviewed November 2010

last updated : 15/02/2012

See also our UK ICT Directory for supplier lists and links

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