ADR from the other side

Well, now that AAISP no longer do voice SIMs, I have a GiffGaff SIM for my personal use. It is a while since I have simply had a normal mobile contract like this for myself.

So, I asked them on their support web page if they do ACR, as required by section 11(3) of The Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003.

Before anyone starts talking of just pressing the red button (or whatever you do on an iPhone), the regulations require that the "subscriber" has the option to reject such calls, and the subscriber is not the same as the "user" and may be nowhere near the phone. This basically means the telco have to offer ACR (Anonymous Call Rejection). Thankfully the ICO seem to agree. I pursued this back in 2003 and got nowhere, apart from ICO confirming that the mobile companies were in breach and refusing to "exercise their enforcement function" when requested to do so by myself.

Now we have ADR, so this seems a perfect chance to try ADR from the consumer side. I really hope GiffGaff are not using the same bunch I had the misfortune to deal with last. Mind you, if they do, having been so unbelievably biased towards the customer last time, I would hope they are not hypercritical enough to treat me differently.

What is interesting is that I am almost seeing the point in ADR now! I can't for A&A, but for GiffGaff, so far, they are a shambles.

  • I asked if they do ACR.
  • They said no.
  • I asked for a deadlock letter as this seemed to be the end of the matter and a deadlock, so they said to email a complaints email address.
  • I did, and they replied saying they would answer in 5 days
  • They did not
  • I checked the old ticket raised which said it is closed, cannot be updated and to raise a new ticket. They had marked it "solved" which is clearly not the case.
  • I raise a new ticket, explaining old ticket was closed, and asking again for deadlock letter.
  • After a day or so I get a reply saying this is covered by an old ticket and to reply to that old ticket, the one I cannot reply to now.
  • I have asked again, now for the forth time, for a deadlock letter, and added a complaint about being given the run around.
So, will be interesting to take them to ADR now.

We'll see if ADR is, as it seems, a simply way to blackmail any telco in to caving in on any point that may otherwise cost them up to £350.

It will also be interesting to see what happens if the arbitrator orders them to actually provide ACR. If they can, then why the hell did they not before, i.e. 10 years ago when a law required them to. The regs do not even say it has to be a free service.

If they cannot, then what then? Would ADR insist on compensation? And what happens when, next month, I point out that the law still says they have to do ACR and take them to ADR again? Or hundreds of other people take them to ADR?

I have no idea how this is going to pan out - it seems crazy that I can, as an individual, cause a telco this much hassle. We'll see how it goes.

Update: Just got this from GiffGaff (3rd Nov)

"The law you have quoted is indeed correct, however, this law also states the anonymous call rejection is only required where it is available. As you have been advised already we do not offer this service and therefore it cannot be provided."

Err, no, the law says "Where a facility enabling the presentation of calling line identification prior to the call being established is available". Which means where I get CLI at all, which I do.

They also say "Our ADR provider is Offcom who can be contacted anytime through their own web site."



  1. Good luck with this! Arguing this point with a certain mobile network got me nowhere years ago - part of my argument was "the phone has already rung by then!". "Choose to refuse" would have been a workable alternative in my case - to block a certain withheld number without me having to know what it is. Whereas I am happy with automated phone-side workarounds, I can see the case for subscriber-controlled refusal.

  2. Once i've finished having the ICO come down on them like a tonne of bricks for refusing to honour a Subject Access Request I might push this with Three again... :)

  3. I certainly hope this succeeds, though I have a nasty feeling the arbiter might accept either "in this case, you are both subscriber and user, so 'just press the red button' is acceptable here" or "we don't run the network, O2 don't offer ACR, so we can't provide it" - apart from the voicemail system, their Fujitsu system integrates on the credit-control level, so may not even have the ability to log/block inbound calls as they go through O2.

    Did A&A offer ACR on those AQL SIMs? (Presumably easy for you, integrating through VOIP so you could route/divert calls, rather than just handling billing.) If so, another reason to mourn their demise - no chance of resurrecting that service any time soon?

    Depending on your results, I think I may try the same with Three - I switched to them from Giffgaff last year after their censorship fiasco. (For several days, anything they considered "adult" redirected to a 404 on O2's website unless I used a VPN - without consulting or even notifying customers before imposing that nonsense. Three, much more sensibly, provisioned both my accounts as uncensored from the outset.) Of course, since BT get away with charging for ACR, Three might just reply saying "OK, we'll do it for £1,000 setup plus £1,000 per month"...

    1. We did offer ACR, including options to also block unavailable, and options to drop the call with error code or to say why dropped. There was a "hidden" Three number which could be random dialled which would get the phone without getting through us, and we had no ACR on that, but thankfully that was not a problem in practice.

    2. Wow, so even A&A didn't fully implement ACR due to technical limitations. If a law is impossible to implement due to limitations in current ( at the time ) technology then surely it's a bad law that needs to be repealed

    3. RevK's reply to this got misthreaded below, it seems.

      There was no real technical limitation involved, it was a decision by Three in how they set up the service A&A were reselling. A&A managed to build a system which was effectively compliant, despite Three not having bothered to comply at the time. Probably because they didn't see enough pressure from customers to comply - let's get working to change that now!

    4. Well, we did not do it fully as there did not do it - if they did, we would. It is, obviously, technically possible. And with lots of notice before the 2003 regs, the mobile networks should have done it, but with a further 10 years, heck they should have done it.

    5. Does the ability to ACR apply to the SIM, the service provided, or the specific number?

    6. Hmm... Well I _was_ going to say: as it looks like GiffGaff don't even own and route their own number blocks, I suspect their defence (much the same as yours for the edge case) will be "we don't do it because O2 don't do it"


      digging a (little) bit deeper, I was a little surprised to discover that they aren't just another MVNO but are appear to be a subsidiary of Telefonica and hence could be argued to have much tighter ties to O2. you might be able to snare O2's non-compliance as a side effect with this!

    7. Well, nobody challenged us :-) arguably the "hidden number" was not actually part of our service a such. Our service was with our number(s) which did have ACR. It may be that we would have been able to argue out of that, or somehow stop it being routed from normal PSTN and only from our interconnect or some such if pushed. We'd certainly have tried.

  4. Time to contact Ofcom, with a copy of GiffGaff's reply, and ask Ofcom to open an ADR case for you? Could get exciting...

  5. Another batty suggestion on how to stop a nuisance call ringing - "Put the number in your contacts and set it to silent ring tone." - er, yes, but what can I put in that will match a withheld number? The droid who came up with that obviously didn't realise how stupid a suggestion it was until I asked the follow-up question.

    1. A shame - today was, I think, a new record: a whopping four anonymous spam-callers (so far). All "out of area" as opposed to 'withheld', so wouldn't be blocked by BT's ACR product as I recall, almost as if some greater power wants to encourage me to get Asterisk hooked up to auto-answer them all...

      iOS 7 does finally allow you to block address book entries - but of course that doesn't cover "out of area" or "blocked" (withheld), so still little use against spammers. Maybe in iOS 7.1, or once 7 is jailbroken...

      I *think* porting my landline number to A&A VoIP would work, and cease the BT line (and broadband as a side-effect), then I should be able to re-provision it as a broadband-only line at £10. Something to keep in mind for next year when the line rental saver year is up.

  6. The law says I only have to follow it if I'm following it.... that's the best interpretation of a law ever. I guess you don't need a law degree to work at GiffGaff support! Don't want to come accros that guy at a red light :-)

  7. Wow.. how can they run a telco and be so ignorant of the regulations? They could argue the point on ACR, but having no ADR policy in place is the kind of thing Ofcom should come down on them like a tonne of bricks for.

  8. Their complaints code of practise at http://community.giffgaff.com/t5/Using-giffgaff/Complaints-Code-of-Practice/ta-p/3522825 suggests they use the Ombudsman Services - interesting that the person who told you to talk to Offcom [sic] doesn't appear to have read their own CoP...

  9. Wow, I am glad someone has found these guys out.

    RevK I signed up to giffgaff for my business phone before the summer as its mainly inbound calls giffgaff seemed ideal.

    As I dont like filtered internet I enquired about removing the parental controls, apparently according to giffgiff they are required by ofcom to require a passport or drivers licence number sent to them over the internet, umm right. So I contacted ofcom who told me its complete nonsense (note this before the PM went public about his anti porn policy and even now its not on ofcom's remit), I asked ofcom do they have an issue with giffgaff making a claim on their website that ofcom are enforcing their policy, and I managed to get ofcom to contact giffgaff about the statement, however ofcom have informed me giffgaff have simply not responded and ofcom seem unwilling to take it further. I have since got a passport (for other reasons) but am not giving them my passport number over the internet and basically giffgaff are lieing to justify a draconian policy. Like yourslef I found them incredibly evasive on tickets they also keep replies very short, just saying things like refer to our "t&c".

    1. That is a perfect case for taking them to ADR I suspect. Try it.

  10. Rev Adrian

    Thanks for agreeing to use of some of this material in my efforts to tackle Vodafone over its lack of ACR.

    Results will be published at http://blog.dntopping.com as-and-when.



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