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UPDATED: Telcos review funding for Telco Dispute Resolution service

Paul Brislen, Editor. 27 March 2017, 7:02 am

The Telecommunications Carriers Forum (TCF) has released its annual report into how well the telco sector is going and highlights include increased investment, increased competition and reduced prices for consumers.

But the launch also saw the demise of the Telecommunications Dispute Resolution service (TDR) in its current form.

The TDR acts as a final back-stop in any dispute between customers and their telcos. When all else fails, when all avenues of progress have been stymied, there is the TDR.

However the TDR has never really sat comfortably within the TCF and the chief executive Geoff Thorn revealed that the TDR will be moved out of the TCF in the near future.

Currently the management of the TDR is outsourced to FairWay Resolution Limited, an "independent, Crown-owned company providing specialist conflict management and dispute resolution services".

FairWay handles over 14,000 disputes each year in a variety of industries including medical, insurance, financial services, local government as well as telecommunications and employs around 90 staff and around 120 specialist reviewers.

Funded by the telcos and managed through the TCF, there has been a constant complaint from the telecommunication providers that they pay too much for the service and that too few people use it to warrant the expense.

Those on the other side of the coin would suggest the telcos do little to promote awareness of the scheme and that uttering the magic words "I see we have reached an impasse and I have no choice but to contact the Dispute Resolution Service" generally triggers an instant resolution of any problem the customer might have, which suggests the TDR does indeed have a role to play.

Previous ministers of communications, including Steven Joyce and Amy Adams, have pushed the industry participants to create a robust and workable resolution process or have one thrust upon them. Quite what the current minister, Simon Bridges, will do if the telcos remove their funding remains to be seen.

UPDATE: Geoff Thorn from the TCF has been in touch to say the intention is not to defund the TDR but rather to increase its independence.

"Our intention is to strengthen the independence of the scheme, rather than remove funding. The funding will continue, and the scheme will remain mandatory for TCF members."

The TCF will "step back" from its governance role and FairWay will provide the scheme independently of the industry.

(NOTE: The editor formerly sat on the TDR Council as a customer representative.)


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