We have a customer with a dispute, and of course we want tor resolve it. I'm not going to give any personal details here, obviously...
The dispute is relatively simple, he asserts that we told him 100GB/mon for Home::1 would be fine for a house of 5 adults all separately watching netflix every night. Unsurprisingly he used 100GB in 10 days. Home::1 has a minimum term of 6 months and a very reasonable early termination charge.
Now, let me say right off, if we did say that to him, we will sort something out for him - more allowance for 6 months or leaving with no early termination fee, or whatever. If we screwed up and said something wrong, we will take responsibility for that. We have ticketing for emails and record all calls, so it should be simple to work that out. Sadly he is being a tad vague on times or numbers or names of people he spoke to. Hopefully we can confirm this.
He had a huge long debate with our accounts department over what is "average usage". We explained what we say on the web site and ordering pages and what OFCOM have reported about average usage for broadband. He seems to think he is "average", which is clearly not the case, but all irrelevant - we sold him 100GB.
The problem is that he is now talking of ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution).
Obviously we are going to try and resolve this, and ideally come to an agreement without involving ADR, but at the end of the day ADR is a huge problem with this and massively impacts negotiations.
The early termination charges are much lower than the cost of ADR even if we only look at the fee we have to pay (and ignore all the time and effort) and even if ADR finds we are completely correct and we are not ordered to pay anything or do anything. This means the threat of ADR is effectively blackmail. The customer can simple be as difficult as he likes; insist we said things with no evidence of that; and demand he can leave with no early termination charge "or else, ADR".
What concerns me is we may find the call recording and prove we did not say that, and so have done nothing wrong, but he can still demand ADR and still put us in this annoying position of choosing to cave in to blackmail or pointlessly go through ADR - a process which would not "resolve" the dispute.
If we cave in, we save money compared to ADR, but what is to stop everyone who changes their mind just invoking "ADR", making a total mockery of simple fair contract terms.
Very frustrating. We'll see what we can do to resolve it anyway, and what evidence we can find. In the long run we have have to think of other ways to package services as clearly "early termination charges" may effectively be un-enforceable on consumer products. I'll try not to get stressed this time.
P.S. One way this may be resolved in future is with routers getting cheaper, migrations getting cheaper, people already having FTTC, and, of course, cheaper back-haul bandwidth. Eventually there will be no need for any minimum term and no reason for someone that simply "misunderstands" not to simply move on to their next ISP as complete resolution of the issue. We can but hope.
P.P.S. In all the years I have been blogging, you can see disputes really are rare - I would not expect to blog every disagreement, but an actual unresolved dispute is incredibly rare and I think I probably have blogged every one so far - making me wonder even more why the hell ADR even exists.