Legal Customer Complaints Code
In the unlikely event of a problem or misunderstandings we are keen to resolve any issue promptly. We try to be honest and fair. We do make our contract terms very clear to avoid any confusion. We think it is fair that if you have suffered an outage in a service because of something we did wrong you should get your money back. However, we also think it is fair that you understand that things can break (usually because of matters outside of our control) and so you have to take your own precautions against this. For this reason we offer at most your money back for the period each specific service was unusable. Please do read the terms carefully before considering any sort of formal dispute.
You must be a current customer in order to make use of our customer complaints code and hence any ADR service. Whilst the Communications Act does allow a prospective customer to take a matter to ADR, the fact that customer service is specifically excluded from the contract, and there are no implied terms that apply until you are an actual customer, and no service yet provided, and no bills yet raised, there are clearly no areas that are within scope that could be validly taken to ADR by a prospective customer and as such we do not consider complaints from such people.
As director of A&A I apologise for the complexity of this process and the fact it goes against our no b*llshit principles - if you are interested in the reasons why - see details of our only ever ADR case
Step 1: Talk to us
The first step is to talk to us. If you have an issue and are in touch with any of our staff, ask them to resolve the problem for you. You can email or call as you wish. Our staff will be frank and honest with you and will try and help address your complaint if at all possible. Even if you are not starting a dispute of any sort, we are happy to take any feedback from you.
Step 2: Team leader
If you get nowhere with a member of staff then ask to speak to or be referred to a team leader. All of the departments have a team leader who can help resolve any dispute. Our team leaders have some discretion to offer good will credits in some cases, and will try to be reasonable.
Step 3: Feedback and rants
We set ourselves very high standards for the quality of service we provide, both technically and in the way staff deal with customers. If we have let you down in any way in terms of quality of service, been slow to reply to your questions, been rude, or if you just want to just let off steam, please do give us feedback. We are always looking for ways to improve the service we offer. We may, at our discretion, offer a good will gesture of some sort, and, of course, an apology.
Customer service issues
It is important to realise that whilst internally we have high standards for the quality of customer service we offer, and we welcome feedback, this is explicitly not something we offer in the contract terms. As a customer you have agreed that zero compensation applies for "poor customer service". Indeed, you will see in our terms that to prospective customers (that have not yet taken a service) we specifically offer to be rude and unhelpful. So whilst we appreciate your feedback on any poor customer service, it does not constitute a valid dispute. We consider the quality of customer service to be down to perception so if you feel you had poor customer service we agree with you that you have had poor customer service. As such, any customer service complaint is not in fact a dispute as we are not disputing or disagreeing with what you say. We also hereby apologise for any poor customer service you have had so that is not a reason to ask ADR for an apology from us. If you are unhappy with customer service, please give us constructive feedback so we can improve it.
Please think carefully about what you want to achieve by taking matters further. Ultimately money, and an apology, is all you can get - you cannot force us to provide a service to you or force us to fix a fault if we simply cease your services. Making a formal complaint means we have to work "by the book" to minimise any risk of compensation or cost, so it is by far the least likely way to get things "fixed" or get a "good will" credit. We'd rather be nice to each other and try and find an amicable resolution.
Step 4: Starting a formal complaint
If you are still having a problem you can start a more formal complaint by emailing our escalations department at firstname.lastname@example.org. We suggest you include the whole story in the email, but feel free to simply quote the ticket number of previous emails as we can look up the conversation to help deal with your matter. The escalations department will look in to the matter, and if necessary involve a company director in making a decision. We will reply by email explaining our decision and reasoning. We aim to respond to complaints within a week, but some may take longer. If you are unable to send an email you can sent a complaint by post addressed to "Escalations".
Step 5: Alternative Dispute Resolution (Court service arbitration call)
Because of the history of large telecommunication companies messing customers about, even as a small family business we have to participate in an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme. However, we have great faith in the County Court Small Claims Track (small claims court). As ADR is much more costly for us we would rather resolve any dispute using the small claims court, and their Alternative Dispute Resolution process.
The English court service provide a free arbitration service by telephone - they call you and then us in turn for up to an hour to come to an agreement. This is available once a small claims track case is issued, so does need the small claims process to be started. It does not, however, need a hearing in front of a judge and so is much easier and cheaper for all concerned.
If you are a small business or consumer that could take us to ADR, and we have not resolved your dispute within 8 weeks of a formal complaint (as above) - we may offer to let you take the matter to the small claims court without paying court fees. This allows you to make use of the court service arbitration call totally free of charge as an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).
Ask us for a deadlock letter at 8 weeks and state that you would be happy to use the small claim court at our expense.
We will look at the matter, and may offer to pay your court fees for taking us to small claims court. Once you have our agreement, simply file the claim on Money claim, pay the fee, and tell us the bank details to which the fee is to be repaid to you. Within 5 working days of us receiving the county court claim and your bank details we will credit your account with the court fees paid. Obviously if the arbitration call does not resolve the matter you could then take the case on to a hearing if you wish, for which the court make a small fee.
Defining your claim clearly (in step 4, above) will make completing the claim form on-line very quick and simple. The small claims court process is not complicated and well worth learning as it can be invaluable in resolving disputes in all areas. If you have never used small claims before, we highly recommend it.
Regardless of the outcome of the case, we don't expect you to repay the payment we made to cover your court application. Obviously if we lose the case, that payment is part of the settlement.
Step 6: Alternate Dispute Resolution (CISAS)
For customers that are consumers or business of 10 or fewer employees that are not a communications provider if a dispute relates to telecommunications services, and is not resolved within 8 weeks of making a formal claim (as above), you can take the matter to Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). We advise you of this fact in the reply to your email to escalations and advise which arbitrator you can use. Alternative Dispute Resolution is a process allowing a dispute to be resolved without going to court, and the arbitrator does not charge you for this. The arbitrator is a separate company, and not a court, and they charge us for the service of resolving disputes (much more than small claims court), so please do consider the above offer to resolve a dispute via the small claims court arbitration service instead. Additional costs for us mean higher prices for all of our customers in the long run.
Again, defining your claim clearly (in step 4, above) will help you provide clear details of your exact claim to the arbitrator.
If you are not a customer, or not a consumer or small business, or if you tell us that you are a communications provider or meet the definition of such as defined by the Communications Act (a very wide definition), or if your have not followed our customer complaints code, or if your dispute is not about a communications service (broadband, phone line, mobile), or your complaint is not in fact a "dispute", then our contract with you does not allow you to use the arbitrator.
The arbitrator can consider billing disputes, disputes over the services we provide, and could consider customer service complaints if we did not (a) agree such complaints with you, meaning they are not a dispute and (b) exclude them from the contract, as we do.
If, for any reason, you are unable to take a claim to ADR (e.g. a communications provider, or a business over over 10 employees), you are welcome to use the small claims court at your expense. Notify us of your intentions first as per normal court procedures.
There are various ways a dispute can be resolved:-
- Apology: If your complaint is that we have provided poor customer service, we cannot really dispute that as customer service quality is all about your perception, so if you perceive it was poor quality then it was. We are happy to apologise for poor customer service, and accept any feedback from you to help improve matters in future. You have contractually agreed that there is no compensation for poor quality customer services and as such no dispute to resolve.
- Correct an error: It may be that we have made an error - the most likely being some billing error where we have charged you too much for some reason. Obviously we take such matters seriously - but the resolution is to credit your account for the amount in error, and refund you any balance due. We will agree the amount of the credit with you as full resolution of your dispute, and, of course, we will apologise for the error. Remember though that whether we have or have not made an error depends very much on our contract terms.
- Compensate you: It may be that you are due some compensation, for example, if your service was not working for some time. We have already agreed the money back basis for compensation in the contract terms. We will confirm the amount of compensation with you as full resolution of your dispute, and, of course, we will apologise. Some services are very cheap, and so the compensation is quite low. Remember that you have agreed that we limit our liability in the contract, and there is no compensation if a free service does not work!
- Good will: It may be that we offer a good will credit. This is usually where we believe we have done nothing wrong contractually, but we feel we could have handled things better. If we offer a good will credit it is conditional on your agreeing that it is full resolution of your dispute. A good will payment is purely at our discretion.
- Not a valid dispute: It may be that the resolution to a complaint is simply a matter of us explaining the agreed contract terms to you and why you have no valid claim. Even so, we take all disputes very seriously, and if there are ways we can improve our services, we will try to do so. We are happy to take on board your feedback, and look in to why you may have misunderstood the terms you agreed, or anything else you think we did wrong even though not a breach of our terms. If we have messed you about in anyway, whether it is our fault or something beyond our control, we are happy to apologise to you for this.
- Cease services: It may be that we cannot provide a resolution that meets your needs. If, for example, you have erroneous expectations regarding the services we provide and want something we cannot provide. In such cases the resolution is to terminate services with the required notice. Remember that, regardless of the nature of the dispute or the resolution, we can terminate services without any reason with the agreed notice period. The arbitrator or court cannot force us to provide service to you, so bear this in mind if you want to take the matter further if we are ceasing services. Once we stop providing services to you, you no longer meet the definition of customer in the Communications Act, and as such we do not have to offer you access to ADR.
In any case, if you have started a formal claim/dispute, and it is resolved by one of the above means, we will ask you to confirm that you agree the dispute is now resolved and that you will not take the matter any further. Credits for good will, billing errors or compensation are conditional on your agreement that the dispute is resolved by that credit. If we owe you money as a result, it will not be paid until you confirm the dispute is resolved. If you do not, then we will cancel credit issued and you will have to take the matter further to court or ADR.
Note that we cannot use ADR to resolve a dispute we have with you (i.e. where you owe us money). In such cases we will issue proceedings in the county court small claims track if you refuse to pay as per normal business practice. You cannot use ADR once we have started a court case against you.