ISPs sign up to revised customer complaints scheme

Updated: Data shows rise in complaints over past three years

The code of practice governing the beleaguered Telecommunications Dispute Resolution Service (TDRS) has been revised to attract more ISPs.

The TDRS, which is part of the Telecommunications Carriers Forum, was established in 2008 as an independent body to review customer complaints. It initially had the full support of TCF members, but over time the smaller industry players such as CallPlus and Orcon left the scheme, claiming the process of reviewing complaints was unworkable.

It has always been supported by the tier one telcos Telecom, Vodafone and TelstraClear.

A revised code will come into effect on August 1 and TCF chief executive David Stone says its members are now rejoining. “2degrees and CallPlus have committed in writing, and I have verbal commitments from all the rest,” he says.

These are understood to be Kordia, Farmside, Woosh, Compass and TrustPower. Orcon is a separate matter, because there is some discussion as to whether its membership comes under the umbrella of its owner, Kordia. In an email to the Ministry of Economic Development officials earlier this year Stone claims that once these parties join the scheme it will cover approximately 97 percent of all local telco retail customers.

CallPlus chief executive Mark Callander, one of the most vocal opponents of the original scheme, says the company is satisfied with the changes that have been made. “There’s a more effective gating process and the pricing structure’s changed, I wouldn’t say its ideal but its certainly changed from where it was at. An individual customer could (under the previous scheme) cost you thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars,” he says.

TDRS chair David Russell is delighted that the ISPs are rejoining but says it is critical that the scheme is promoted to customers.

“The companies are saying ‘we’re so good, we’re getting very few complaints’, I can’t quite accept that there are so few dissatisfied customers out there. Maybe I’m wrong but I would find it very difficult to accept having had experience with the electricity, banking and insurance industries.”

The TDRS has received the following number of calls since it was established:

2008 – 1396

2009 – 1621

2010 – 1968

Before a customer can approach the TDRS they must first address their complaint to their telco and then the complaint gradually escalates if resolution fails. If, at the end of the process the ISP is deemed to be at fault, it will be ordered to provide compensation. In the past tier two and three telcos argued this unfairly favoured vexatious complaints and made it too costly for them to participate.

Here’s how quickly complaints were handled in 2010 (see www.tdr.org.nz for details as to what each level involves):

96 percent of disputes resolved at level 1 within 8 hours

93 percent of disputes resolved at level 2 in 32 working days

All disputes resolved at level 3 (conciliation) resolved within 50 working days

81 percent of disputes that were referred to adjudication were resolved within 16 working days of referral.

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