Own initiative investigation into Care Free Communications Ltd concerning compliance with General Condition 14.5 – Dispute resolution schemes

11 May 2018

Complainant: Ofcom own-initiative investigation
Investigation against: Care Free Communications Ltd (“Care Free”)
Case opened: 24 October 2017
Investigation closed:
24 April 2018
Case closed: 9 May 2018
Issue: Whether Care Free has complied with its obligations under General Condition 14.5 (“GC14.5”) of the General Conditions of Entitlement to implement and comply with a Dispute Resolution Scheme.
Relevant instrument: GC14.5

Update 11 May 2018

This case has now closed. We have evidence that Care Free has re-joined an ADR scheme as at 9 May 2018.

The total penalty issued to Care Free is £11,500. This includes a fixed penalty of £10,000 and a penalty totalling £1,500 for its failure to be a member of an ADR scheme from 24 April 2018 to 8 May 2018.

Ofcom has today also published a non-confidential version of the Confirmation Decision issued to Care Free on 24 April 2018 (PDF, 454.3 KB).

End of update note

Update 26 April 2018

Ofcom has concluded its investigation into Care Free’s compliance with General Condition 14.5 – an important rule that requires all communications providers to be a member of an Ofcom-approved Alternative Dispute Resolution Scheme.

Our investigation found that Care Free contravened GC 14.5 by not being a member of an ADR Scheme since at least 28 March 2017, and for failing to comply with final decisions issued since 10 October 2016 when it was a member of an ADR Scheme.

We have, therefore, issued Care Free with a Confirmation Decision under section 96C of the Act.

This includes the imposition of a financial penalty of £10,000 on Care Free in respect of its contraventions of GC 14.5 between 10 October 2016 and 24 April 2018.

Care Free must also pay a penalty of £100 for every day that it continues to fail to be a member of an ADR Scheme.

In accordance with the Confirmation Decision, Care Free has until 24 May 2018 to remedy its non-compliance and join an ADR Scheme. The daily penalty will accrue during this period.

A non-confidential version of the Confirmation Decision is currently being prepared and will be published shortly.

End of update note

Update 20 February 2018

Following an investigation, Ofcom has provisionally determined there are reasonable grounds for believing that, since 10 October 2016, Care Free has breached, and continues to breach, General Condition 14.5. We have therefore issued a Notification to Care Free under section 96A of the Communications Act 2003 (the “Act”).

General Condition 14.5 requires all communications providers to be a member of an Ofcom-approved Alternative Dispute Resolution Scheme. Dispute resolution is an important piece of consumer protection, allowing people to bring unresolved complaints against their communications provider to an independent body, which will consider the case and offer a fair and impartial judgement. The rules require communications providers to fully comply with these decisions.

Ofcom’s evidence suggests that Care Free has not been a member of an ADR Scheme since at least 28 March 2017. We also have reasonable grounds to believe that, before its membership was terminated, Care Free failed to comply with a number of final decisions that had been made under the ADR Scheme by the deadline stated.

Care Free now has an opportunity to make representations to Ofcom on the matters contained in the Notification before Ofcom makes a final decision, in accordance with section 96C of the Act.

We aim to reach a final decision in this investigation by April 2018.

End of update note

Ofcom has opened this investigation following enquiries indicating Care Free is not a member of an approved Dispute Resolution Scheme.

Under GC14.5, Communication Providers must implement, and comply with, an Ofcom approved independent Dispute Resolution Scheme for their domestic and small business customers, in relation to the provision of public electronic communication services.

Two such Dispute Resolution Schemes have been approved by Ofcom. They are Ombudsman Service: Communications and the Communication and Internet Services Adjudication Scheme (CISAS).

Ofcom’s investigation will examine whether there are reasonable grounds to believe Care Free has failed to comply with its obligations under GC 14.5.

We are aiming to complete our evidence gathering phase in this investigation by the end of the year. We will publish a further update on next steps once that phase is complete.

Case Leader: Camille Seldon (camille.seldon@ofcom.org.uk)
Case Reference: CW/01197/05/17