SINGAPORE: Consumers and small businesses will be able to turn to a speedier and cheaper way to resolve disputes with their telecommunication and media service providers when the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme launches in April.
Making the announcement on Friday (Mar 4), Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo said currently, subscribers will try to resolve contractual disputes with their service providers directly or through existing dispute resolution options.
“These can be costly and less consumer-friendly,” she said in Parliament, adding that the new scheme “is designed to be affordable and effective” as part of strengthening consumer safeguards.
The ADR – jointly developed and administered by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and the Singapore Mediation Centre – will cover disputes over billing and unsolicited charges for all telecom and media services, such as mobile services, fibre connection services and subscription TV services.
Disputes handled by the new scheme will be capped at S$10,000 and must have occurred within the past one year. They should also “be resolvable through service recovery efforts or compensated for in kind or in monetary terms”, said IMDA in a separate factsheet to the media.
Services that are less frequently used or not licensed by IMDA are currently excluded. These include billing-on-behalf services such as app store purchases, and over-the-top streaming services such as Spotify and Netflix.
IMDA said that once a case is submitted under ADR, service providers will be given a 14-day notice period. During this period, service providers and their customers can negotiate and resolve the dispute before formal dispute resolution processes under the scheme commences.
The ADR process, which will have two stages comprising mediation followed by determination, is expected to “take no more than two-and-a-half months”, the industry regulator said.
Apart from efficiency, the new scheme will also be an affordable alternative for consumers as service providers bear the bulk of the fees for mediation and determination.