Determinations

TDR Case Note T003584 (2009)

Issue

Customer service - complaint handling systems.

Background

The customer subscribed to services with the Scheme Member Provider (provider). The customer experienced technical problems in September 2008 and considered that his efforts to resolve those problems were badly handed by the provider.  He stated that there were problems and delays in resolving the technical issues and that the provider closed his fault tickets before the problems were resolved.  He complained that the provider’s staff subsequently failed to adequately communicate with him or to take his complaint seriously. The customer also complained that his request for the Incident Report comprising the record of his complaints was not complied with in a timely way and when it was provided, it was inaccurate and incomplete. The customer initially sought an investigation into the provider’s complaint-handling procedure, with the outcome reported back to him, appointment of an alternative liaison person to deal with his complaints, an apology, and a goodwill offer to go to a charity. The latter two requirements were later withdrawn but the customer added a complaint that the provider had acted in breach of s 33.1 of the Customer Complaints Code (the Code) by privately discussing the matter with the TDR service.

The provider accepted that there had been service breakdowns and apologised for the errors. The provider however responded that the information was supplied as required and that its complaint-handling procedure was adequate in this case, although not perfect. 
Adjudicator’s decision: The adjudicator found that the two essential issues were (1) whether the provider’s complaint relating to the Incident Report falls within the scope of the scheme and (2) whether there was a breach of s 33.1 of the Code.

With reference to s 20.1(c) of the Code regarding the exclusion of a complaint if “it is a request for information”, the adjudicator found that the customer’s complaint was about the accuracy of the Incident Report. That report logged the nature of the technical problems underlying his complaint and his attempts to resolve those issues. It was not merely a ‘request for information’, so came within the scope of the scheme. 
The adjudicator considered that the Incident Report formed an integral part of the complaints procedure and that the customer was entitled to expect that record to be accurate and could ask for it to be adjusted or amended where it was shown to be incomplete or inaccurate. The provider had given no cogent reason why this could not be done. The adjudicator ruled that the provider should amend the Incident Report in the manner requested by the customer.

With reference to s 33.1 of the Code regarding the provider refraining from “conduct which may give rise to reasonable doubts as to the independence and impartiality of the Scheme Agent”, the customer claimed that the response from the provider’s staff in November 2008 indicating “in my discussions with them this is not at all a common complaint brought to their attention…” made him suspicious about collusion between the provider and the Scheme Agent (TDR). The adjudicator confirmed that he had no personal contact with either customers or employees of any scheme members, including the provider. The provider’s employees had misunderstood what the TDR role actually was by indicating that they had sought advice from the TDR, and they had apologised for the error. The adjudicator therefore considered that there was no material breach of s 33.1 of the Code. 

Final outcome

The adjudicator concluded that: (1) the customer’s complaint regarding the Incident Report falls within the scope of TDR scheme and ordered that the Incident Report be amended in the manner sought by the customer; and (2) the provider had not been “materially in breach” of s 33.1 of the Code.