Own-initiative Monitoring and Enforcement Programme: General Condition 14 regarding Complaints Handling

CW/01101/02/13

Complainant: Ofcom own-initiative monitoring and enforcement programme
Investigation against: Communications Providers (CPs) offering fixed line telephony, mobile, and broadband to consumers
Case opened: 12 February 2013
Issue: Compliance with the requirements under General Condition 14 relating to CPs’ complaints handling procedures and awareness-raising of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
Relevant instrument: General Condition 14 of the General Conditions of Entitlement ("GC14"): specifically GC14.4 (Code of Practice for Complaints Handling

Update note: 11 February 2016

Ofcom has decided to extend this Programme for a further twelve months. This will enable us to continue our engagement with CPs to secure improved performance in relation to complaint handling and to continue to monitor compliance with GC14.4. If any formal enforcement action is taken as a result of the work undertaken in this programme, we will publish separate Bulletin entries as appropriate.

End of update note

Update note: 10 September 2015

As part of this monitoring and enforcement programme into complaints handling, Ofcom commissioned Mott MacDonald to carry out an independent study looking at whether CPs are writing to consumers with unresolved complaints to inform them of their right to go to ADR. The study looked at a number of complaint cases randomly sampled from cases that had been accepted for consideration by an ADR scheme during January-June 2014 to see whether this had happened.

The results of the study indicate that a number of CPs have not been sending this type of letter as often as they should, which is of clear concern. Although some individual CPs have been making changes to their complaints handling processes since the sample for this study was taken, we believe change is required across the board to help address this issue.
We have today written to the providers who were found to have performed poorly in the study, making clear the significant improvements we expect to their performance in sending these letters to consumers as required by GC14. We will be monitoring this closely over the next six months.

We are committed to ensuring CPs comply with their obligations under GC14.4.  We have already taken enforcement action against two providers under this programme and currently have an investigation open into a third. If we do not feel that sufficient progress is being made by the CPs concerned, we will not hesitate to open further investigations under this programme.

If any further formal enforcement action is taken as a result of work undertaken in this programme, we will publish separate Bulletin entries as appropriate.

End of update note

Update note: 7 August 2015

A non-confidential version of the Confirmation Decision issued to EE Limited (trading as 4GEE, Orange and T-Mobile), on 2 July 2015, has now been prepared and can be found here

End of update note

Update note – 3 July 2015

Following an investigation into EE Limited (“EE”), trading as 4GEE, Orange and T-Mobile, Ofcom issued EE with a Confirmation Decision under section 96C of the Act on 2 July 2015. The Confirmation Decision also imposes a financial penalty of £1,000,000 on EE in respect of its contravention of GC14 during the period of the investigation. Further details can be found here.

End of update note

Update note: 11 June 2015

Ofcom has today opened an own-initiative investigation into Vodafone’s conduct in relation to its obligations under GC11.1 and GC14.4 following the assessment of evidence gathered under this Monitoring and Enforcement Programme. Further details can be found here.

End of update note

Update note: 11 February 2015

Ofcom has decided to extend this Programme for a further twelve months. This will enable us to continue our engagement with CPs to secure improved performance in relation to complaint handling, and to continue to monitor compliance with GC14.4. If any formal enforcement action is taken as a result of the work undertaken in this programme, we will publish separate Bulletin entries as appropriate.

End of update note

Update note: 17 November 2014

A non-confidential version of the Confirmation Decision issued to Hutchison 3G UK Ltd (trading as Three), on 7 October 2014, has now been prepared and can be found here.

End of update note

Update note – 8 October 2014

Following an investigation into Hutchison 3G UK Ltd (trading as Three, “Three”), Ofcom issued Three with a Confirmation Decision under section 96C of the Act on 7 October 2014. The Confirmation Decision also imposes a financial penalty of £250,000 on Three in respect of its contravention of GC14 during the Relevant Period. Further details can be found here.

Update Note – 11 August 2014

Ofcom has decided to extend this Programme for a further six months. This will enable us to continue our engagement with CPs to secure improved performance in relation to complaint handling, and to continue to monitor compliance with GC14.4. If any formal enforcement action is taken as a result of the work undertaken in this programme, we will publish separate Bulletin entries as appropriate.

End of update note

Update note – 28 February 2014

Ofcom has opened an own-initiative investigation into EE Limited (trading as EE, Orange and T-Mobile) following the assessment of evidence gathered under this Monitoring and Enforcement Programme. Further details can be found here.

End of update note

Update note - 11 February 2014

Ofcom has decided to extend this Programme for a further six months. Our assessment of the evidence we have gathered has identified certain issues in relation to compliance with GC14.4. We will now be considering what further action, if any, may be appropriate. If any formal enforcement action is taken as a result of the work undertaken in this programme, we will publish separate Bulletin entries as appropriate.

End of update note

Update note - 26 September 2013

Ofcom has today opened an own-initiative investigation into Hutchison 3G UK Limited (trading as Three) following the assessment of evidence gathered under this Monitoring and Enforcement Programme. Further details can be found here.

End of update note

Update note - 9 August 2013

Ofcom has decided to extend this programme for a further six months. We are currently considering the evidence we have gathered to date. If any formal enforcement action is taken as a result of the work undertaken in this programme, we will publish separate bulletin entries as appropriate.

End of update note

On 22 July 2010, Ofcom published the statement “Review of Consumer Complaints Procedures.” This statement introduced changes to CPs’ responsibilities for complaints handling, through an amendment to GC14 (GC14.4).

After a period of monitoring the complaints to Ofcom’s Consumer Contact Team about CPs’ complaints handling, Ofcom is now launching a monitoring and enforcement programme to assess CPs' compliance with the provisions in GC14.4, and determine whether any further action, including enforcement, is required.

Under General Condition 14.4 CPs must have and comply with procedures that conform to the Ofcom Approved Code of Practice for Complaints Handling (Annex 4 to GC14) when handling complaints made by domestic and small business customers. The Ofcom Approved Code of Practice and accompanying guidance includes requirements on transparency, accessibility and effectiveness. It also establishes a requirement for CPs to include relevant information about ADR on consumers' bills and to write to consumers whose complaints have not been resolved within eight weeks to inform them of their right to go to ADR.

Our objectives for this monitoring and enforcement programme are:

  • To ensure that CPs have Codes of Practice that comply with the Ofcom Approved Code of Practice for the Handling of Complaints (at Annex 4 of GC14).
  • To identify any problems (including consumer concerns) in relation to CPs' compliance with GC14.4.
  • To ensure that CPs are making consumers aware of ADR and in particular, to address current concerns that consumers may not typically be receiving the written notification that CPs are required to send to complainants whose complaints remain unresolved after 8 weeks (the ‘8-week letter’).

Ofcom may initiate separate investigations of named providers. Where we do so, these will be announced via our Competition and Consumer Enforcement Bulletin. Alternatively, we may move directly under this programme to take enforcement action where, for example,

Ofcom has reasonable grounds for believing that a CP is contravening GC14.4. In that case, Ofcom will announce its action via an update to this bulletin entry.

Case Leader: Thomas Cherry (email: Thomas.Cherry@ofcom.org.uk)
Case Reference: CW/01101/02/13