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IMDA launches public consultation to seek views on introduction of alternative dispute resolution for telecommunication and media services

The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) has launched a public consultation to seek views on its proposed framework for the Telecommunication and Subscription TV Mediation-Adjudication Scheme (“the Scheme”).

According to the authority, the Scheme aims to introduce an alternative dispute resolution scheme for telecommunication and media services.

This proposal was first unveiled in August 2016 as part of the public consultation on amendments to the IMDA Act and Telecommunications Act, and is intended to supplement existing consumer protection measures and dispute resolution approach to meet rising public expectations for better customer care and service levels.

The Scheme aims to provide an alternative avenue for consumers and small businesses (eligble customers) to resolve disputes with telecommunication and media service providers in a fair, affordable, and effective manner, while incentivising faster resolution by the service providers.

IMDA said that it is proposing a two-stage process for the Scheme – mediation, then adjudication where necessary.

In the mediation stage, where the disputing parties agree on a resolution, the terms of settlement for the dispute will be recorded in a written agreement that is binding on both parties.

While, in the adjudication stage, the adjudicated decision will be final and binding on the service provider if the consumer accepts it.

The authority notes that as the Scheme is intended to supplement and not replace existing complaint channels set out by service providers, consumers are to first approach their respective service providers to resolve any disputes before escalating unresolved disputes to the alternative dispute resolution body appointed by IMDA.

IMDA said that it is also proposing to make it mandatory for certain telecommunication and media service providers to participate in the Scheme to ensure a more effective dispute resolution process for consumers and small businesses. Consumers, however, will have the flexibility to resolve their disputes through the Scheme or through other avenues such as the Small Claims Tribunal.

The Scheme is designed to cover widely-used telecommunication and media services, such as mobile, broadband and subscription TV services. It will also seek to address common disputes that are known to be consumer pain-points, such as disputes on billing or service quality, that can usually be resolved through service recovery efforts, or compensated in kind or monetary terms.

IMDA added that it is proposing for the Scheme to be self-sustainable via a co-payment model by eligible customers and telecommunications service provider. It is proposed that the customer and service provider cover 10 percent and 90 percent of the case fees respectively.

This co-payment model is common among other similar local schemes to allow the appointed alternative dispute resolution body to cover costs and sustain its operations. The co-payment ratio is also intended to incentivise faster resolution by the service providers. The fees for eligible customers are expected to start from $10 and $50 for mediation and adjudication respectively.

IMDA noted that the public consultation is open for six weeks and closes on 28 February 2018.

For full details of the public consultation, please click here.