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IMDA seeks to strengthen consumer protection with dispute resolution scheme for telco, media services

THE Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) is seeking views from the public over the next six weeks on the proposed framework for an alternative dispute resolution scheme for telecommunications and media services.

The Telecommunication and Subscription TV Mediation-Adjudication Scheme, which is part of the amendments to the IMDA Act and Telecommunications Act, aims to beef up existing consumer protection measures and dispute resolution amid expectations for better customer care and service levels.

The scheme is looking to deliver another platform for consumers and small businesses to resolve disputes with telecommunications and media service providers in a fair, effective and affordable way.

The scheme is designed to cover widely-used telecommunications and media services, such as mobile, broadband and subscription TV services, and will address common issues such as disputes on billing or service quality.

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A two-stage process - mediation followed by adjudication, if necessary - is being proposed for the scheme. In the mediation phase, if both parties agree on a resolution, the terms of settlement will be listed out in a written agreement that is binding. In the adjudication phase, the adjudicated decision will be final and binding on the service provider if the customer accepts the decision.

However, as the scheme aims to supplement existing complaint channels, consumers are still expected to first approach their service provider to try and resolve the dispute before resorting to the alternative dispute resolution body appointed by the IMDA. Consumers can still choose to resolve their disputes through other avenues besides the scheme, such as the Small Claims Tribunal.

The IMDA is also proposing to make it mandatory for certain telecommunications and media service providers to participate in the scheme.

In addition, the IMDA is proposing that the scheme be self-sustainable through a co-payment model, where consumers and service providers cover 10 per cent and 90 per cent of case fees respectively. The co-payment ratio is also intended to incentivise faster resolution by the service providers.

The fees for consumers are expected to start from S$10 and S$50 for mediation and adjudication respectively.

The public consultation closes on Feb 28. The full details can be found here.

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