They are pretty small to be honest - the first is the "customer complaints code" which now says that to make an official complaint you have to tell us:-
- The exact amount you are claiming
- How you worked out this amount
- What steps you have taken to minimise this amount
- What exactly we did wrong
- Why this was a breach of contract. i.e. which clauses exactly. If it was not a breach of contract you have no claim.
- For any claim relating to an ongoing service that was not working
for a period, then, for each specific service (i.e. broadband is
separate from annex M and separate from email, etc)
- In what way the service was not working
- Why was the service not working our fault
- When you reported the service not working
- When the service was fixed (or ceased, if not fixed)
- Exactly how much you were charged from when reported to when fixed or ceased. Please quote the invoice numbers.
- If the amount you are claim exceeds the limit of liability agreed in the contract (i.e. what was charged for each service for the period it was not working due to our fault), then explain why you believe the limits in the contract do not apply. You cannot claim more than is agreed in the contract.
So that change alone should help a lot. To be honest I think this is a small change. When shit goes wrong people get cross. You need to focus. You need to be able to say what you want and why. That helps massively. So doing this up front makes it easy for us, and if ever it goes to ADR it helps. We also added a whole section on "Step 3: Feedback and rants" on the basis people have some way to just complain without making a "formal claim".
To be clear, and we say this as well, we can make good will payments (if we decide, not if ADR decide) if things did not go well even if not our fault. We do this. Of course, if doing this makes us somehow more liable we'll stop, so I hope not. But we want to be fair. Problem is that ADR is by definition unfair, which is odd as their own terms say they should be fair. It is unfair as one side pays regardless for the case. Why are they even using the word "fair" in their terms when clearly they are not.
The big issue is that this would have meant there was no case - we did not breach contract. Sadly, having changed our complaints code we now realise that the fact we did not breach contract is irrelevant!!! WTF!
So other changes in the main terms. We state "We expect our staff to always be helpful and polite, and we expect customers to do likewise - however this is not part of the contract. If we, or you, are rude or unhelpful then there is no compensation for this either way in the contract. We may terminate a call or chat if we feel you are being rude, and we would happy for you to do the same if staff are rude. We are happy for your to provide feedback on such cases and we will endeavor to address them (again that is not part of the contract). Just to be clear - we are not agreeing to compensate you for causing stress or inconvenience either."
Again, I was hoping this meant that no accusation of being rude or unhelpful would count as not breach of contract. Little did I know that not being in breach of contract did not count!
So finally we have added "Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is a service that allows you to make a claim without going to court if you think we have done something wrong and we owe you compensation. It is important to realise that this contract has clear limits on our liability even if we do something wrong, and you have agreed to those limits. This includes the fact that nothing is due for being rude or poor customer services, only where we are in breach of contract. ADR can take complaints for many reasons, but not about our terms and conditions. However, as we are not confident that ADR will limit any awards to the limits agreed in this contract, it is a term of this contract that if you take an issue to ADR and are awarded an amount in excess of the limits strictly due under these contract terms, then you will immediately re-imburse us that excess or allow us to deduct it from the award. The arbitrator claim to consider the law and our terms in their decision, and so this clause should never be needed."
I have no idea if that holds water legally. It should, IMHO, because it says "this contract counts". It says "what we agreed was the limit of liability really is the limit". It should not need saying. It is normal contract law that if we agreed a penalty for breach then that is what we agreed. Saying we can enforce the contract over what an ADR says should be a non issue as they are meant to take in to account the contract and the law. Clearly they don't do this, so by putting this in, in theory we can sue someone that takes us to ADR and gets a silly award, or simpler we just withhold the award as agreed in the contract - something they cannot argue about.
This does not stop them using ADR though - they can - and the things ADR are good for like billing errors, are covered and no problem. Basically, anything ADR should cover, within the contract, they can. We would never expect any dispute to ever get that far as we will happily fix any mistake we genuinely make.
I can only hope we have another 15 years before another case like this and testing that contract clause.
I hate having to be "mean" to anyone, but really - contracts should rule. They say what we have agreed, and that should matter!