2008 TDR Third Quarterly Report Press Release

Thursday, October 30, 2008

This is the full text of the press release and Q & A paper issued by Telecommunication Dispute Resolution (TDR), regarding the third TDR Quarterly Report. A copy of the release and Q & A paper can be download at the bottom of the page.

Telecommunication Dispute Resolution Service, Third Quarter Results

New Zealand’s first independent telecommunication dispute resolution service is on target to reach 1000 complaints received in its first year of operation.

The organisation’s third Quarterly Report, released today, said this figure is very close to the number anticipated when the scheme was first planned.

The TDR Council’s chairman, consumer law advocate Bill Bevan, said most of the complaints dealt with by TDR to date have been resolved very early on in the process, and were not moving on to  a formal, adjudicated process. However, Mr Bevan said that consumer satisfaction levels were very high.

 “It is clear from the TDR customer satisfaction survey and the anecdotal feedback that the scheme agent is providing quality services to consumers who are appreciative of the assistance. The process is seen as "fair and impartial", with 90% of consumers saying they would recommend use of the scheme to their friends.”

However, Mr Bevan also highlighted the problem some consumers face where TDR was unable to help – complaints from consumers whose telecommunications provider was not part of the TDR scheme.

“Almost seven percent of the total complaints are from customers of non-participating telecommunications suppliers. Given that these suppliers have less than two percent of the market, this represents a disproportionate number of complaints from consumers that TDR cannot help. This is clearly one of the most significant issues identified to date and one the Council is keen to address by encouraging 100% industry participation,” he said.

The TDR service was implemented and is managed by Dispute Resolution Services Ltd (DRSL). DRSL General Manager Neil McKellar said although there had been an increase in complaint numbers, few were resulting in a formal, adjudicated process. 

He also said that while the number of calls to TDR continued to increase – showing an increasing awareness of the service – many consumers were being sent back to their telecommunications company because their complaint had not been made the company first. TDR can only help with complaints where the telecommunication company is a member of the TDR scheme, and where the consumer has already made the complaint to the company involved.

The top three complaint types for the quarter are the same as previous quarterly reports - billing and credit (45%), service/product delivery (22%), and customer service (14%). In the next and final quarterly report for the year, the category of billing and credit will be separated into two categories; billing, and credit management. Three new complaint types have also been added to the existing categories; transfer (where a consumer is transferred from one telecommunications company to another), contracts and complaint handling.

Mr McKellar said that with more accurate classification of disputes it would be easier for TDR to provide a root cause analysis of complaints received.

One area that had caused particular concern this quarter was the transfer or customers from one Scheme Member to another, Mr McKellar also said. Complaints had been received that showed there was often poor communication to the customer during the transfer process. This included:

  • Customers not advised about possible termination fees when switching between companies
  • Transfers actioned while customers were "still considering things”
  • “Pushy” sales tactics, particularly in regard to elderly customers or those with English as a second language
  • Insufficient advice given about delays
  • Uncertainty about who the customer should direct complaints to if there are problems during transfer
  • Transfers occurring without customers’ written authorisation 
  • Customers feeling ‘caught in the middle’ where both providers denied responsibility for delays or other disruptions in service

Mr McKellar said these issues had been passed on to the TCF working party that is reviewing the Customer Transfer Code.
TDR is a free service, which can be used by any consumer whose telecommunications company is a member of the TDR scheme.

Consumers must have raised their complaint with their telecommunication company first, and given the company a chance to respond. If the consumer is not happy with the outcome or it has taken more than six weeks to resolve, TDR can get involved.

The service has been established by the New Zealand Telecommunications Forum (TCF) – a collective of telecommunication companies – along with leading consumer advocates such as Consumers’ Institute, TUANZ and Citizens Advice Bureaux.

The TCF established the TDR Council, made up of half industry and half consumer representatives, to provide the overall governance of the service.

A full copy of the quarterly report can be found on the TDR website www.tdr.org.nz.