Friday, 18 May 2012

A new ADR

So, we are finally on CISAS. There are only two approved ADR companies, and this is the other one.

I have to assume they are the lesser of two evils as it is hard to conceive that they could be worse.

The terms are slightly different, and generally seem better. Of course, the terms of the last bunch seem to have been totally ignored by them. So it is possible this bunch will do the same. Lets hope not.

I really hope we never have to find out.

One small detail they seem to have is that they do outlaw claims where they are subject to proceedings in the courts. The last lot did this too, but only if the customer had started the proceedings. This lot seem to not have that caveat. This means that if we have a dispute with a customer not paying, then starting court proceedings will stop them using ADR against us. This makes sense, as ADR cannot rule (enforceably) in our favour, so no point in ADR tackling such a case (you would think). The last bunch seemed happy to take what was, essentially, a customer not paying their bill, agree with us that we are not in breach of contract, and then insist we waive the charges and pay them money, which is blatantly batshit crazy (IMHO). If ever we have a new case we will be very quick, up front, to quote T&Cs to the ADR and, if needs be, argue with OFCOM.

Anyway, we are asking a few up front questions of CISAS to clarify a few things just in case. I hope they are OK on this. If we have a case that goes to an arbitrator then something has gone very wrong.

But it does get potentially interesting. The contract with the previous bunch does not end until next April, AFAIK.

However, my understanding, which may be wrong, is that one cannot simply take a dispute to an arbitrator. It basically has to be in the agreed contract that you can use an arbitrator in the first place.

In the case of telcos, OFCOM insist that this is the case (as required by the Communications Act). So we have that option in our contract terms.

We have now changed our terms so they say that eligible customers can (following the customer complaints code, etc) take a dispute to CISAS and not to Otelo.

I think that means Otelo cannot take on any more cases for our customers, even though we are still in a contract with them. I do hope so.

It also means that our contract can, correctly, only allow ADR for people the Communications Act says can take us to ADR. This is subtly different to what the scheme rules are for CISAS. It is subtle. CISAS say, for example, a company of more than 10 employees cannot use ADR. The Comms Act says "for which more than ten individuals work (whether as employees or volunteers or otherwise)". not a big issue I expect, but surprised they do not align. Now, if I am right, and the contract terms have to allow arbitration in the first place, then this is fine. Our T&Cs limit to people as per Comms Act, and then people have to meet scheme rules. We'll see what they say.

Please don't get me wrong. I want to be fair and reasonable with all customers and want to resolve any disputes promptly. We *do* have a contractually agreed, up front, in your face, limit of liability, and we don't expect anyone to try and bypass that. We certainly don't expect to have to pay some arbitrator to resolve a dispute for us. One case in 15 years is not a bad record, but that should not have happened in so many ways.


  1. How hard is it to become an approved ADR company? If it's not too challenging, it could be time to set up ADRIAN (Alternative Dispute Resolution by Intelligent Analytical Nerds) and increase the competition in the market...

  2. What a nightmare. You just want to pump bits and get paid. Who needs this hassle.

  3. iOS 5.1 Safari iPad can't enter more than x chars, nor can paste into here for some reason.