Why It Matters

Easing woes of telco customers

It is a number that cannot be ignored: The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) received some 2,000 complaints yearly in the last two years from telco customers.

These customers had locked horns with their service providers over a wide range of issues from billing errors, unexplained mobile data and roaming fees to pay-TV and broadband service disruptions.

And, on many occasions, telcos had turned down consumers' request for mediation, said the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case).

Some of these complaints could soon be redressed via an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme, slated to kick in as early as the end of this year - for as little as $10.

The final implementation details are being ironed out in a public consultation that ends on Feb 28.

IMDA proposed a two-stage process.

Mediation is to be carried out first and, if the issue is still not resolved, a third party will make a formal ruling.

If the consumer accepts the ruling, the decision will be binding on the telco.

Consumers are to bear 10 per cent of the case fees, with telcos bearing the rest. The fees for consumers are estimated to start from $10 for mediation and $50 for adjudication.

Comparatively, the Singapore Mediation Centre charges at least $267.50, and Case, at least $37.45.

 

There is also manpower cost for the telcos in turning up for mediation and processing paperwork.

Telcos would be compelled to settle quickly, especially when the disputed amount is small.

But the system is open to abuse.

Difficult customers might wear everybody out with unreasonable demands.

It is important that the ruling is binding on the customers too. They should also be prohibited from going to the Small Claims Tribunal after exhausting the ADR process for a second bite of the cherry.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 20, 2018, with the headline 'Easing woes of telco customers'. Print Edition | Subscribe