The role of Otelo in the telecommunications industry

Otelo, Office of the Telecommunications Ombudsmen, was introduced on the 1st January 2003. The service that has been set up to investigate consumer complains about telecom services.

Otelo is a free and independent service and can investigate consumer complaints against any telecom companies who have signed up as members of the Telecommunications Ombudsman Service. Current members include, British Telecom, Centrica, NTL, United Utilities, Powergen plus many more. An up to date list of the current Otelo members can be found on the Otelo website. Otelo will not handle a complaint if the company is not a member of their service. A company must be providing services within the Ombudsman’s scope to be able to join the service.

To be able to use the Otelo service the consumer needs to either residential or small business. (If a business has telecommunication bills of less than £5,000 a year then they fall under the small business bracket.)

To be eligible to raise a complaint with Otelo, the problem must have happened on or after 1st January 2003. The consumer also needs to have raised the issue with the company in question within twelve months of first knowing about it. A consumer can involve Otelo once they have raised the issue to the member company involved. Otelo will also need to know the full extent of the complaint. The complaint needs to fall within one of the following categories including, telephony, which covers mobile, fixed phones and also faxes. Additional phone services such as, short messaging services (SMS), voicemail and call forwarding are included. Plus telephony services for disabled people such as text relay and free directory enquiries.

Otelo can be contacted either by phone, 0845 050 1614, or alternatively they have an online complaint form where a full complaint can be registered.

Following the complaint, a decision will be reached as to what action is to be taken. The action that is taken can be in the form of compensation, up to a maximum value of £5,000, an apology or explanation to the affected consumer or some form of practical action that will be of benefit to the complainant. The member company has an obligation to honour the Ombudsman’s decision in all cases. The consumer must accept the Ombudsman’s decision within two months of the verdict being reached. If the consumer does not wish to accept the decision within the two month time frame, then they will lose the right to the decision that has been recommended.

In some cases the Ombudsman may feel that the complaint was not justified. In situations such as this, the member company will be under no obligation to take any action. The consumer involved will be written to with an explanation as to why this has been the final verdict. If a consumer does not wish to accept the Ombudsman’s decision, they can try other options for a resolution, for example legal action should they wish to the the matter further.

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