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Along with many of our peers we have been dissatisfied with the current Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme for a while now. Whilst we appreciate the importance of an ADR scheme, we believe the current process is unfairly biased against the ISP who has to foot the bill regardless of the outcome, provides little to no feedback on rulings and is too easily abused by consumers. That’s why we were delighted to hear ISPA are working alongside Government and OFCOM to improve the current system, and we were even more delighted when ISPA offered to discuss their improvement plans with us in a guest blog. Andrew Kernahan, Public Affairs Manager at ISPA explains…

Paul

Andrew Kernahan, Public Affairs Manager, ISPA

The Communications Act made belonging to an Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme a legal requirement for all telecommunications providers for consumer customers and businesses of less than 10 employees. There are two Ofcom-approved providers, CISAS and Ombudsman Services, with ISPA members entitled to free CISAS membership as part of ISPA membership. ISPA also takes complaints from members’ customers as a way of managing a customer complaint before going to ADR, and we think this has saved members a lot of time and money over the years.

ISPA supports ADR, as it gives customers and ISPs assurance and acts as an independent arbiter in the unfortunate few cases where communication breaks down between a customer and their provider. However, there are several issues with the current arrangements that industry would like to see changed.

This also harms how the wider industry is perceived, as it looks like there are a lot more genuine customer grievances against ISPs than actually is the case. To manage this, we would like ADR providers to have an initial screening process to stop vexatious complaints from being ruled on and we call on Ofcom to better monitor and question ADR statistics. We also call on Ofcom to look at what lessons can be learned from other systems, such as the small claims court where cases are heard quickly, with features like a small claimant fee to prevent vexatious applications.

ISPA would also like more transparency from ADR providers over decisions, with clearer reasoning why a complaint was either upheld or rejected. ISPA members also need more clarity over the exact remit of ADR.

So what has ISPA done on this issue?

In April, ISPA held a productive workshop with both Ofcom and CISAS to put across member concerns with the current process, which has led to new guidance for CSPs. ISPA also responded to a Department for Business, Innovation and Skills consultation on the Alternative Dispute Resolution Directive, and whilst the proposed changes to extend ADR to industries not currently covered by mandatory ADR do not have much bearing on telecommunications providers, the call for evidence is a great opportunity for those with in an interest in ADR to make their views known and point out what has and hasn’t worked. There is still more to be done, and the Government has said it will look at reforming ADR in the next parliament. We urge it to do so for the benefit of all ISPs and their customers.

About ISPA

The Internet Services Providers’ Association (ISPA UK) was established in 1995 and currently has 200 members and is the voice of the UK internet industry to Government, parliament, regulators and the media.

Entanet’s view

We completely agree with ISPA and echo their concerns with the current ADR process. It is great to see they are working with Ofcom and Government on our behalf to improve the process for the good of ISPs and their customers. We hope their campaign is successful and will be monitoring their progress carefully, providing our readers with more updates as they become available.

Have your say!

What are your experiences of using ADR schemes? Have you had good or bad experiences in the past? Do you also have concerns over the current scheme or do you think it is sufficient? Let us know your thoughts and share your experiences by leaving us a comment below.

Related articles

Entanet Opinion: Arbitrary Arbitration?
Entanet Opinion: The A-Z of industry issues (Part 1)
Entanet Opinion: Poll: Do you think Ofcom’s plans to improve the ADR schemes will be successful?

Further information

ISPA: ISPA Website
CISAS: CISAS Website
Ombudsman Services: Ombudsman Services Website
Wikipedia: Alternative dispute resolution

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