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Dispute Resolution Services, First Quarter Results

Media Release

Dispute Resolution Services, First Quarter Results

EMBARGOED UNTIL 9AM, MAY 9, 2008

New Zealand’s first independent telecommunication dispute resolution service is delivering on its promise of answering calls promptly and resolving disputes quickly, its quarterly results show.

Telecommunication Dispute Resolution (TDR) has today released the information about its first four months of operation, which shows that since its launch at the end of November 2007, TDR has met or exceeded its performance targets, and that during the same time the number of cases opened by the organisation grew by more than 50 per cent month-on-month.

TDR’s total number of cases opened for the four months to the end of March was
275, with 174 (63%) cases dealt with between the supplier and the customer,
93 (34%) classified as non-relevant, and eight still in the dispute process. Non-relevant complaints mostly involved disputes that happened before the scheme began, and so could not be dealt with by TDR.

TDR is a free service, which can be used by any consumer whose telecommunications company is a member of the TDR scheme.

Consumers must have raised their complaint with their telecommunication company first, and given the company a chance to respond. If the consumer is not happy with the outcome or it has taken more than six weeks to resolve, TDR can get involved.

The service has been established by the Telecommunications Carriers’ Forum (TCF) – a collective of telecommunication companies – along with leading consumer advocates such as Consumers’ Institute, TUANZ and Citizens Advice Bureaux. The TCF established the TDR Council, made up of half industry and half consumer representatives, to provide the overall governance of the service. The chairman of the TDR Council is well-known consumer law expert Bill Bevan.
Mr Bevan said the quarterly results highlighted the success of the scheme, and the professionalism of the company implementing and managing it, Dispute Resolution Services Ltd (DRSL).

“The TDR scheme is a great example of an effective and efficient partnership
between the industry and its customers. Funded by telecommunication companies, governed by consumer and industry representatives, managed and operated by a government-owned company, it provides independent, free dispute resolution services to telecommunication customers”, he said.

DRSL General Manager Neil McKellar said a positive working relationship had been established between TDR and the telecommunication industry, and that initial feedback from consumers had been extremely good.

He said there had been a steady increase in the volume of complaints, and that
judging from the experience of similar dispute resolution agencies in New Zealand and overseas, that number was forecast to increase steadily over the remainder of the year and beyond.

“TDR looks forward to providing a first class dispute resolution service to telecommunications consumers and the industry into the future,” he said.

Of the complaints that had been received, almost half related to billing and credit.
A further 29 per cent were to do with service and product delivery (failures and delays in connection, disconnection and functionality). Customer service complaints made up 11 per cent of complaints, five per cent related to network performance (speed and service interruptions) and faults accounted for three per cent of complaints. The remaining three per cent of complaints were listed as ‘Other’ – calls that did not fit the standard categories.

Mr McKellar said communication – or lack of it – played a central role in many of the complaints.

“Difficulties for customers contacting and getting responses from providers have been noted in a very large percentage of cases. Customers have frequently not had a clear understanding of the terms and conditions contained in their contracts and have complained that explanations they have received from providers have been incomplete and therefore misleading or inaccurate,” he said.

Mr McKellar said while there was not enough information yet to define systemic industry-wide issues, complaint handling and contractual terms and conditions were
a factor in many of the complaints.

Mr McKellar also provided case studies of real complaints that had been handled
by TDR, and listed some of the unsolicited positive feedback that had been received
so far. These highlighted the speed and success of the resolution process.

A full copy of the quarterly report can be found on the TDR website www.tdr.org.nz.

Ends

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