FCS Alerts CPs over new complaint handling regulations

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The FCS has warned communications providers to ensure that they comply with new regulatory requirements issued by Ofcom on complaint handling which come into effect on 22 January or risk a fine.

The changes which apply to all companies providing ‘electronic communications services’ to residential or small business customers were mandated by Ofcom in a statement issued in July 2010. However, Ofcom recently reminded communications providers that it has the ability to take enforcement action against those companies which it finds have inadequate complaints procedures.

The main change to existing requirements is that communications providers must now provide a standalone written complaints code which meets Ofcom’s newly published guidelines (it will no longer be acceptable merely to include complaints handling information in a more generic customer code of practice).

Ofcom has also published precise requirements on how the code should be made available to customers including detailed instructions on how and where to lodge a copy on the communications provider’s website.

FCS CEO Jacqui Brookes OBE said: “Communications providers should note that some further changes will also come into effect in July 2011 which will require that information on ADR must be included on paper bills.

“It will also be a requirement from July 2011 that, where a complaint is unresolved after eight weeks, communications providers must write proactively to inform customers about their rights to access ADR.

“FCS is calling on all CPs to ensure that they have not only taken steps to implement the necessary changes but have also contacted their billing provider to discuss the requirements which will come into force in July.”

Information about the various requirements is available on the Ofcom website. However, FCS provides a service, available to both members and non members, to assist with compliance on all the regulatory code requirements. This includes a recently updated template incorporating the new format complaints code, which has been reviewed by Ofcom to ensure that it is compliant.