Services and Billing

What is an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme?

Frustrated woman on phoneUnder Ofcom’s regulations, phone companies must be a member of an approved Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Scheme.

The schemes provide an impartial alternative if you and your communications provider can’t agree about a complaint.

It is free, and is open to residential customers as well as small businesses with up to 10 employees.

Examples of complaints the schemes consider include:

  • Disputed charges appearing on a bill
  • Refund claims
  • The handling of a complaint.

How it works

If you haven’t reached an agreement with your provider after eight weeks – or earlier, if they agree you’re at a stalemate (this may also be called “deadlock”) – you can then ask an ADR scheme to consider the case. The complaint must also be less than 12 months old. If after 8 weeks of first making your complaint, your provider does not communicate with you that you’re at a stalemate (or that you have reached deadlock) then you can take your case to ADR at any point.

Tell Ofcom

If your provider does not belong to an ADR scheme but you believe they should, please make us aware by calling 0300 123 3333 or completing this online form: No complaints process

If the ADR scheme comes to an adjudication, the provider must abide by the decision.

This could include requiring the provider to make a formal apology, to make a payment to you, or to take other practical steps.

However, if you remain unhappy with the outcome, you are still free to seek legal advice.

There are two approved ADR schemes: Ombudsman Services: Communications and CISAS.

Your phone company will tell you which scheme it is a member of, or you can check online on the CISAS or Ombudsman Services websites.

Watch our video guide to telecoms complaints

Updated: July 2015