In March 2015, we commenced a review of the appropriateness and effectiveness of regulatory obligations concerning complaint handling and redress in the postal market. In particular, we reviewed Consumer Protection Condition 3 regarding complaints handling and redress in relation to postal services (“CP 3”), which came into effect in early 2012.(-1-) We have now completed our initial information gathering phase.
As an initial step in our review, we issued an open letter to stakeholders seeking views on the current regulations. Their responses are published on the Ofcom website.
As well as gathering information from stakeholders, we gathered some insight into the consumer experience, through additional questions in the Q1 Ofcom residential consumer postal survey, which was carried out between January and March this year. The questions focussed on satisfaction levels, whether users of the services had had cause to complain in the last 12 months and their experience of complaint handling. We note that because of the very low numbers of respondents on detailed issues, we are unable to reach any firm conclusions based on the data gathered. In order to do so we would have to carry out a much larger research exercise.
Ofcom also logs calls received from consumers in relation to telecommunications and postal services. We have analysed such complaints and queries in relation to post. Complaints received by Ofcom about all postal operators continue to fall each year. We have also considered the number of cases dealt with by POSTRS, the postal dispute resolution scheme. POSTRS publishes its annual report on its website.(-2-) The 2014 report notes that the number of cases received each year is also decreasing.(-3-)
The information that we have gathered does not indicate that there are any major issues relating to complaint handling and redress that need to be addressed by Ofcom at this time.
We note some respondents’ to the open letter call for a review of the definition of regulated postal operator (“RPO”), but also note respondents’ view that this issue should not be looked at in isolation as part of this project, but should instead be considered as part of a wider review of the definition as it also impacts on other policy areas. We also note that no operators provided evidence to suggest that compliance with the current regulations was unduly onerous or disproportionate.
Finally, we note that, in June 2015, Ofcom announced a fundamental review of the regulatory framework in post.(-4-) This review may identify issues relevant to the definition of RPO and/or consumer protection more generally.
Taking into consideration in particular the lack of information indicating that there is currently a significant or pressing issue in relation to postal complaint handling and redress, and that Ofcom might make findings or policy decisions as part of its wider review that could have an impact on matters relevant to CP3, we have decided to close our separate review into complaint handling and redress for now. However, should new information indicating consumer harm arising due to the current regulations come to light, we will consider reopening this review.
3.- See page 10 of https://www.cedr.com/docslib/POSTRS_Annual_Report_2014.pdf