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Consumer Complaints and Advice

Why do we get so many broadband disconnections in Round Hill and what can be done to improve this and other services?

My broadband connection drives me up the pole and that is partly the cause

This article covers:
A) Phone & broadband B) Other products & services

A) Phone & broadband
Dropped Connections in Round Hill

Many households in Round Hill, receiving their broadband services over a telephone line, experience dropped connections (i.e. when the DSL green signal indicator on the modem ceases to be permanent and starts to flash).

Unhelpful HELPLINES

Enormous frustration is caused when residents dial HELPLINES which are answered on the other side of the world by people reading from a checklist with little idea of the problems on the ground. The advice given often focuses on red-herrings such as the proximity of the modem to burglar alarms, microwave ovens, radiators and amplifiers. Customers made to feel responsible for problems with their broadband may turn their household equipment upside down and invest in yards of unnecessary cabling just so that they can tell HELPLINES that they have ruled out the highly improbably causes read out to them from long checklists. The Openreach engineers on the ground in Round Hill know differently.

The truth about Round Hill

The truth is that Round Hill is a long way away from the telephone exchange in Freshfield Road Kemp Town. Broadband speeds which would be possible if residents lived nearer the exchange are just not feasible here.

Your Help Desk's checklist is designed to eliminate user incompetence, but more than often the real cause of dropping connections is this:

Because of the distance from the exchange or the particular route taken by the line which connects your individual household to the exchange, your connection is of poor quality and cannot support a "high" speed. There will be many errors on the line, causing it to lose sync - disconnecting you.

What can be done if I complain?

One solution may be to downgrade to a lower speed in order to get a more reliable connection. Another solution may be to ask for a new set of "pairs".
The telephone company will probably be very reluctant to satisfy this request, because the copper "pairs" which might (or might not!) improve your broadband connection are in short supply in Round Hill and this solution costs time and money. They will probably try all else first, e.g. by fitting you up with a new Master Socket (with separate modem and telephone socket to eliminate the use of micro-filter adapters, thus allowing optimum signal). Read the following links to learn about copper "pairs".

Broadband's Turn on Frustrations - from the Technology Guardian

Access to Bandwidth OfCom - especially point 53 on the cost of providing spare pairs.

Optimistic claims for a patchy area

BT's postcode search to indicate the speed available in local areas yields some wildly optimistic results for some residents, because there are many factors which might determine the 'signal to noise ratio' you get in your household. One customer moved house from one side of Round Hill Crescent to the other. While she had a very reliable broadband connection in her old house, she had months of investigation and complaint to get broadband running satisfactorily in her new house.

The age and size of the infrastructure

One contributer to the problem is "the age and size of the infrastructure". It was not made for high-speed broadband and its is a gigantic task to update so many installations. The telegraph pole opposite my house (i.e. at the junction of Princes Road and Crescent Road) has been classified as "unsafe for engineers to climb", so if any work is done to improve the equipment, cherry-pickers (vehicles with mobile platforms) are needed, involving extra expense. One engineer, who observed that I conducted residents' campaigns, suggested that it might be an idea for dissatisfied local residents to get together and lobby for some of Round Hill's telegraph poles to be replaced.

This pole is classified as too dangerous for engineers to climb but they do not say when they are going to replace it


Individual Consumer Complaints

Complain first to the company responsible for the service or product
If you have already been driven "up the pole" and "round the bend" by a Help Desk on the other side of the world, it might be time to put a formal letter in writing and send it through the post. Remember to say that you have tried the Help Desk or Customer Services and you feel that the problem needs the attention of an engineer.

Before complaining to an independent body, you should make the company responsible for your service or product aware of the problem and give them reasonable time to respond.

Company web sites usually contain SITE MAPS i.e. indexes to the contents of the web site. Find the page containing the SITE MAP and look for a link to the company’s CODE OF PRACTICE.

The relevant link will often open a PDF file, 14 or 15 pages long, which could possibly take a minute or two to open if your broadband is down and you are using a slow dial-up Internet Connection. Once opened, SAVE the PDF file to your HARD DRIVE so you will not experience this delay next time you want to read the CODE OF PRACTICE.

This will set out clearly the Internet addresses of "Contact Us" pages or online Complaints Submission Forms. You should also find telephone numbers of Customer Services Departments and a full postal address for letters of complaint.

If you are elderly or disabled, you should also find a special telephone number which you are entitled to use. This should avoid disembodied voices instructing you to find your way through a maze of option menus. Instead of having to select number after number on your telephone keypad, you should quickly be answered by a real person.

Complaining to an independent body
The time to complain to an independent body, which will listen to views from both sides, is when you have a reasonable case i.e. you will already have complained to the company responsible and EITHER they will not have responded within a reasonable time frame OR they will not have put the matter right by providing what they promised.

One way to speed up a complaint which is not being satisfactorily processed, is to complain to OFCOM The Office of Communications. OFCOM will want to be satisfied that you have used the Internet Service Provider's written complaints procedure first. They will tell you to keep copies of any written communication so that you can prove this is the case. If you have done this, they will suggest that you get in touch with The Office of Telecommunications Ombudsman known as OTELO.

They will tell you too that you should allow a period of 12 weeks for a complaint to be resolved - an acknowledgement, perhaps, of the huge backlogue of customers waiting for Internet Service Providers to give them broadband connections.

While acting as if they themselves cannot resolve your complaint OFCOM will, however, offer to monitor it, as well as asking you to tick a box, giving them permission to contact your ISP. In my experience (of complaining to about two different ISPs), OFCOM does contact the Internet Service Providers, and usually this leads quickly to far better service e.g. you may suddenly find that you are offered appointments with broadband engineers, your ISP could allocate an individual manager to the complaint and this person will ring you periodically until the problem has been resolved to your satisfaction. The attempt at better customer service will get more serious (sometimes even 'over the top'!) as the 12-week period, in which the ISP is meant to resolve your complaint, runs out. It is clearly regarded as a 'breach of their code' to let things go wrong for over this length of time.

OFCOM or The Office of Communications
OFCOM, The Office of Communications, now incorporates several organisations which have now been dismantled such as OFTEL, the Telecoms regulator and the ITC, the Independent Television Commission.

OFCOM’s Complaints Page sets out clearly the types of complaints it handles. Here are some of them:

Landline phone
Mobile phone
Internet Service
Programs on TV or radio
Ads and sponsorship on tv or radio
Digital TV or Radio availability
TV/ radio interference & reception problems
Complaints about OFCOM

OTELO
If you contact OFCOM, about a problem with your broadband service or telephone, having already contacted the company responsible more than once, they may well suggest that you get in touch with The Office of Telecommunications Ombudsman known as OTELO, not a character from Shakespeare.

OTELO provides a free and independent service that has been approved by the regulator (Ofcom). Their job is to investigate complaints fairly by listening to both sides of the story and looking at the facts.

OTELO can ONLY consider a complaint if the company that you can’t agree with, has chosen to become one of its members. There is a good chance that OTELO will be able to help you, because its current members cover more than 96% of the fixed line telephone market, over 55% of the mobile telephone market and 33% of the internet service provider (ISP) market.

What if your landline or mobile telephone company or ISP is not a member of OTELO?
If you have a complaint about NTL, for example, OTELO will not be able to help you because NTL is not among its members. In the case of NTL, you should contact CISAS, the Communication and Internet Services Adjudication Scheme on 0207 7520 3827.

CISAS, the Communication and Internet Services Adjudication Scheme
CISAS sets out to resolve disputes between consumers (or small businesses with 10 employees or fewer) in dispute with over 140 fixed line, mobile and internet service providers – known collectively as "communications providers".

ICSTIS, the Independent Committee for supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Service
If you have a complaint related to Premium Rate Charged Telecommunication Services , the industry-funded regulatory body to contact is ICSTIS. They regulate these services in the UK in their entirety - their content, promotion and overall operation - through their Code of Practice. Their role is to prevent consumer harm.

ISPA or Internet Service Providers Association
Internet Service Providers Association is the UK’s Trade Association for providers of Internet services.
It can only deal with complaints about Internet Service Providers who are among its members, though the membership list is quite great. It’s website has a useful Complaints and Advice Page, focusing on the following:

a) choosing an ISP
b) children on the Internet
c) combatting illegal content
d) Cookies, Domain names, spam

The TPS or Telephone Preference Service
The The Telephone Preference Service (TPS) is a free service, which helps you to make sure your telephone number is no longer available to organisations, including charities and voluntary organisations who may telephone you with offers and information you do not wish to receive. It only takes a minute or two to register with the TPS online to avoid receiving these unwanted telephone calls.

If you are already registered with the TPS and need to explain your legal rights to a nuisance caller: under Government legislation introduced on 1st May 1999 and replaced on 11th December 2003 by the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003, it is unlawful to make unsolicited direct marketing calls to individuals who have indicated that they do not want to receive such calls.

The The Telephone Preference Service (TPS) web site gives additional advice on dealing with the nuisance of Silent Calls i.e. calls generated by automatic dialling equipment which dial more numbers than there are operators available to take the calls.

Current advice is to register your number on the Silent Callgard Service on 0870 4443969.

Recorded messages i.e. unsolicited sales and marketing voice recorded messages down your telephone line, can also cause nuisance. Marketers of these messages are legally obliged to stop sending these upon your request.

If they fail to comply, you can complain to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) - the government body responsible for enforcing the regulations dealing with text messages and automated voice recordings. See their web site or phone their helpline on 01625 545745

The IOC or the Information Commissioner’s Office
The Information Commissioner’s Office handles several areas of rights and obligations, which are also frequent areas of complaint:

1) Your rights and obligations under the Data Protection Act.

2) Your rights in relation to unwanted spam, messages and electronic marketing..

3) Your rights to Freedom of information e.g. to obtain official information from public authorities

4) Your rights to obtain environmental information from public bodies e.g. air quality where your children go to school

B) Other products and services

Your local Tradings Standards Department
You can contact the national Trading Standards Department or your local branch of this organisation e.g. Brighton Trading Standards Department about all problems with goods and services i.e. not just about telephony or communications, though they can also be contacted if you have no joy with OTELO or CISAS, having complained to your landline/mobile or broadband provider first.

The Trading Standards Department web site is very helpful and supplies Advice leaflets for problems with a wide range of goods and services.

UK cities and the larger towns will have a local Trading Standards Department which you can visit in person, often within Council premises i.e. near your Council’s Town or City Hall. The address to go to in Brighton for problems with goods and services, having first tried to resolve your complaint with the company responsible (in the case of a genuine mistake) is:

Brighton and Hove Council
Trading Standards Department
Bartholomew House
Bartholomew Square
Brighton
Sussex
BN1 1JP
Telephone: 08454 040506
(Note: Business advice: 01273 292523)


Councils often post lists of recommended or vetted traders on their own web sites and there are also good independent sites such as Check a Trade where you can see points ratings (out of 10) together with large amounts of feedback from other people who have used the service.

The Citizens Advice Service
The The Citizens Advice service helps people resolve their legal, money and other problems by providing free, independent and confidential advice, and by influencing policymakers.

Local branches of The Citizens Advice service tend to be located near to Town or City Halls.

There isn’t a Brighton office, but The Hove Citizens Advice service (Appointments only) is at:
1 Tisbury Road
HOVE
East Sussex
BN3 4AH
Tel: 0845 1203710 (tel advice 1pm-4pm Monday to Thursday)
Fax: 01273 223950


Advice guide website
The Advice guide website, is the main public information service of The Citizens Advice, providing people with round-the-clock access to CAB information on their rights - including benefits, housing and employment, and on debt, consumer and legal issues.

Consumer Direct
Consumer Direct is a government funded advice service for everyone to use. Their regionally based advisors are specially trained to give practical advice on all kinds of consumer issues - from problems with cars to faulty household appliances.

OFT or The Office of Fair Trading
The Office of Fair Trading is the UK's consumer and competition authority. Their mission is to make markets work well for consumers. empowering consumers with the knowledge and skills to make informed choices and get the best value from markets, and helping them resolve problems with suppliers through Consumer Direct.



This page was last updated by Ted on 14-Jul-2007
(registered users can amend this page)