Friday, August 28, 2009

How to complain

OK, so the English are renowned for our manners, our politeness and our stiff upper lip. Which is clearly why OFCOM has felt it necessary to produce a video guide for consumers about how to complain about your telecoms provider.

The complaints procedure as it is today, is itself a cause for much complaint. A neighbour of my mum's signed up to Talk Talk in the Asda carpark (yes, I know signing up to anything in the Asda carpark is rarely a good idea) and then had to endure a month of intermittent service and the constant frustration of having to contact the call centre (using her prepaid mobile) and re-explain her situation on every occassion. Three visits by engineers later, and a failed attempt by Talk Talk to get her to pay "thousands" to get the fault fixed as it was on her property (even though the previous engineer had said the fault was kerbside) and she finally has a service. Oh, and was it fixed by Talk Talk? No, of course not. It was fixed by a good old BT engineer.

Today, you have to endure 12 weeks of this before you can complain to OFCOM for 'Alternative Dispute Resolution', but under new plans coming into force on the 1st September, this will come down to eight weeks. Still not good enough to help my neighbour Lorna, but a start.

So, if like me you're too English and really hate to create a scene, here's some helpful advice from your friendly OFCOM:

PS. TalkTalkHell has a helpful guide on how to complain here ... and three years on, and it seems they are no better at customer service.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The dawn of recovery in UK telecoms market?

So it seems I took the last bit of OFCOM advice to heart and kept myself safe online, by being offline! Anyway, I'm back, and so is OFCOM ...

This week they've released two more 'guides', both aimed to help consumers survive in these 'credit crunch' times. Obviously the publication is perfectly timed given that this is also the week that the IMF declared that the global recession is over and recovery has begun. (Though sadly not here, but luckily this isn't a political blog so I don't have to rant about the debt we are saddled with as a nation...).

OFCOM's first report - a consumer guide on the cost of calling different numbers - aims to dymystify the different codes, helping separate the 03s from the 08s. In theory a very useful guide it is too ... did you know that every time you phone your GP on their 'local rate' 0845 number, they are actually making money by getting a kick-back from using a non-geographic number. And who said the NHS is free at the point of delivery ... sorry, veered back on to politics again.

However, the bit I liked was the caveat that "The prices in the guide are based on the cost of calls from a BT landline and other providers’ prices may vary". Given that OFCOM this month revealed that the number of local loop unbundled (LLU) lines is now over six million, that's 6,000.000 households etc. for whom the guide isn't really that much use. Oh well. They tried.

The second report, out the same day, is a guide to how to stay connected in case your ISP goes bust. Again, in light of news that France, Germany and Japan are all emerging into the bright dawn of recovery, it's not an encouraging sign that the UK regulator has decided now is the time to put plans in place for UK service providers going out of business.

Maybe I'm being unduly harsh and negative (well, the sun has hardly shone all summer, so who can blame me), but talk of a recovery in the UK telecoms sector seems some way off, if the runes of the OFCOM reports are being read correctly.