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Amended Customer Complaints Code released for public consult

Telecommunications Carriers’ Forum (TCF) Media Release

For immediate release

Amended Customer Complaints Code released for public consultation

Auckland, 13 December 2010

The Telecommunications Dispute Resolution Scheme (‘TDR’) has undergone its scheduled 2-yearly review. Completed in June, the review has resulted in a number of recommended improvements to the service and to the guiding Customer Complaints Code. The draft amended code is now being released for public consultation. The deadline for submissions is 1 Feb 2011, with the improvements expected to be fully implemented by mid-year.

A significant feature of the amended code is a new complaints process that will allow for a more streamlined and speedy resolution of customer complaints.

Introduced in November 2007, the TDR is an independent service for residential and small business consumers who are unable to resolve a complaint with their telecommunications provider. It is, for consumers, a free service that can be used by anyone whose telecommunications company is a member of the TDR scheme.

TDR Council Chair and prominent consumer advocate David Russell has welcomed the recent efforts on the review. The improvements as proposed, he said, will clearly be beneficial to consumer and industry confidence in the service.

Changes include the introduction of ‘position statements’, which detail common areas of dispute and how these should be treated. The introduction of the statements will allow for faster complaint resolution and will provide consistency between complaints with a common background. A new complaint process is also recommended Complaints will be clearly-defined early on, allowing the resolution phase to focus on just that: resolution.

Mr Russell said ‘a number of clumsy and time-consuming steps will be removed from the dispute resolution system.’ He suggests that this will provide greater certainty for telcos and their customers.

‘Any dispute resolution scheme can only be as good as its processes and while we have provided a robust service up until now we think we can do better. This year’s review has provided the impetus and direction to this end’, said Russell.

He said that it was vital to have consumer and industry confidence in every step of the process and that the work carried out over the past few months has produced a code that addresses shortcomings in the scheme.

‘We were aware of chinks in the TDR scheme and we have fixed them’.

‘However, let’s not forget that at just 3 years in operation, the Scheme had to move from infancy to maturity. This has been a considerable challenge. We have been under not only consumer and industry scrutiny but also the political spotlight. ’

Of the improvements featured in the amended Code, the most significant is a new complaints process. The existing system required consumer complaints to fit within a stepped, inflexible process. The proposed process allows the dispute resolution agency to select the tools it considers to be most appropriate to achieve the best result for the parties involved.

Telecommunications Carriers’ Forum CEO David Stone echoed Mr Russell’s comments, acknowledging the efforts of all those involved with the review and its subsequent recommendations.

‘Many people have been involved with this year’s review. The improvements as proposed are clearly indicative of the attention being given to consolidating an independent service that consumers and their telecommunications providers can rely on.

‘Consumers are being listened to, and the industry is certainly supportive of a dispute resolution service that can and will achieve what it sets out to.’

‘I do,’ he said, ‘urge all interested parties to contribute to the public consultation process on the Customer Code amendments.

‘I’m very pleased to be closing out the year with such good progress on this important initiative. The pivotal role of the TCF in advancing improvements to the TDR and the Code are once again testament to our commitment to the industry and its consumers, and to ensuring our continuing lead input into industry-critical issues’.

View the amended Code on the TCF website: http://www.tcf.org.nz/complaints

ENDS

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