This should be a case for putting on our web site as a major success story. It was a company wanting to stream live video from a site in London for coverage of the Royal Wedding last year. They wanted (rather adventurously) to do it on ADSL lines, needing something like 8Mb/s uplink. We managed to get the lines in with a FireBrick doing bonding so that they had around 9Mb/s upload, and all in time for the event. They streamed videos on the day. They even paid the bills (which is not cheap for 4 PSTN lines with ADSL2+ and annex M).
What made it even more of a story is that our favourite telco messed up the records on two of the lines which meant they could not accept an order for annex M (faster upload) as they did not have the line length details. It took Shaun a hell of a lot of work to get that sorted, and he knew he was working against the clock and he managed it. There are logs of him chasing our favourite telco at 2am in some cases. It was a real case of A&A staff going the extra mile, well over and above the contractual requirements to help a customer. All of the staff involved kept them informed the whole time and handled numerous questions and changes to dates and messing around very professionally and politely.
I was pleased, and the customer said they were happy with the service even.
Then we get a dispute from them - they think that they should not have to pay the install price for the lines because of the delay getting annex M on them.
What? That makes no sense. We installed the lines and got annex M and all in time. But they say they needed time to demonstrate to potential customers, and as they did not have time then did not sell as much streaming as they expected. It does not make a lot of sense as they say each stream was 2M, so they could have demonstrated as soon as they got the first 2 lines in long before the event. The delay was getting the final two annex M upgrades. Even so, them not getting customers is hardly our fault as we didn't agree an install date. In fact we make it a clear and explicit part of the contract that we don't guarantee an install date.
We explained that it made no sense. Was he saying he has losses that happened to be exactly the same as the line install costs? Anyway we were not in breach of contract, and anyway we exclude consequential losses even if we were. Sorry...
He starts spouting implied contract terms but cannot say what and where from, and that his claim is not entirely for breach of contract but cannot say what for. He even quoted Sale of Goods Act clauses relating to equipment sales, when he had not in fact complained about the equipment supplied in any way at any time, and clearly it worked as it should have. It really made no sense at all.
Even so, we did issue a good will credit for £272 which was various of the service costs before all 4 lines were working together. We did not have to, but we are nice like that.
He seemed confused by the credit. Anyway, the final email in the dispute was mine asking him to simply and clearly list exactly what he is claiming for, why, and how much. I hear no more.
Months later - The Ombudsman Service say they have a claim. The claim says we have been unhelpful and they lost business due to the delays, and states how much they have paid. It also says how much the calculate they should have paid which is £7 less. We told the Ombudsman that £7 was clearly a frivolous claim, and already more than settled, but they are going ahead anyway?!?!
Today we sent them the case file - something like 500 pages. Good luck!
ADR is Alternative Dispute Resolution. Its required for telcos like us to be part of such a scheme allowing people to take a dispute to an arbitrator instead of the county court.
This is our first case ever. No customer has taken us to ADR or court in nearly 15 years in business, and that alone is stressing me. We strive to provide good service, and to resolve disputes fairly ourselves. How can any case go as far as ADR?
The problem is, even if the arbitrator is sensible and sees we did not breach the contract and we actually bent over backwards to get the service they wanted in time in spite of serious problems (beyond our control) from our favourite telco, and as such there is no case to answer and no award... We pay £350 for that.
Yes, even a totally bonkers case and even if the arbitrator agrees it is a totally bonkers case... we pay £350.
What the hell!?!?!?!?!
We will have to see how the case pans out. In the mean time said company has paid none of their subsequent ongoing service bills, and so we are taking them to county court! Madness.
I think, certainly for business customers, we have to have a clause requiring them to pay us if they bring an invalid case to ADR. No idea if that is enforceable, but at least it is "fair". Maybe that would go to county court if I have that clause - I wonder how a county court judge would rule on the fairness of a clause forcing a "loser pays" arbitration system when, err, that is the system the country court operates... Hmmm.
P.S. had my annual diabetic review today (see other blog post) and for the first time my blood pressure was up - I was awake half the night just stressing on this whole thing being "wrong" so I am not surprised. It is not even the money - £350 is not an issue, obviously - its the injustice that stresses me.
P.P.S. I forgot the "sound bite" type paragraph for ispreview to quote...
A&A have long had concerns over the whole ADR scheme, and this case just shows how it can be abused. A clear case of A&A falling over backwards to help a customer and go way beyond the agreed contract terms, and then having a £350 bill thrown in our faces. ADR is unfair - buy definition - it is a "one-side pays regardless" arbitration scheme unlike the much cheaper country court small claims track where loser pays. We are even tempted to offer customers a scheme where we will pay their fees up front for taking us to court rather than ADR if they have a dispute, after all such a scheme would be a tenth of the cost in most cases.