Monday, February 19, 2007

Dutch ISPs start consumer arbitration board

A number of Dutch internet providers (ISPs) will start an arbitration board for consumers. From May onwards consumers will be able to complain about defective service for telephone, internet and television services. The arbitration board has been a long cherished wish of the Dutch Consumer Association. After having expressed the intention to set up such a board, it has taken two years of negotiating in order to set up such a board.

Presently the telecom companies KPN and its subsidiaries XS4ALL, Tiscali and Speedlinq, and Wanadoo as well as the cable companies UPC, @Home and Casema have joined the arbitration board. These are the major players in the ISP field, but it is expected that other internet providers will follow suit.

The board has been set up as complaints are not speedily solved, usually not to the satisfaction of the consumers. Now there will be one address where consumers can complain about the triple play services. Participants in the board will stick to the ruling.

The board will be open for complaints from May onwards. As its first task, the board will name an independent commission in order to straighten out the conditions of the various ISPs. The associated ISPs will conform themselves to the sentences of the arbitration board. With the institution of the arbitration board the ISPs start self-regulation, a measure promoted by the European Commission on Safer Internet Day.

The board of arbitration will get an online site on where already 37 other consumer arbitration boards offer their services. A complaining consumer will pay 50 euro. When a complaint is judged to be valid, the 50 euro will be returned.

It will be interesting to see what type of complaints will be brought to the board. Matters of defective services such as non-functioning internet telephony should be treated in the arbitration court. But it is expected that complaints about content matters such as illegal music or pornographic material will not be treated in the arbitration board. Recently the Dutch chapter of ISOC warned for this type of self-regulation, which might be introduced in France soon (see below)

As an example of a potential case, internet phoning of KPN might serve. KPN introduced a service internet plus phoning, which was a success from the beginning. However now the company is in trouble as regularly the phone is dead, followed by many administrative problems. The Dutch Consumer Association has asked KPN to make a substantial gesture in terms of free internet and telephony. It has also asked the former incumbent not to advertise the service till the problems have been solved. KPN has indeed stopped advertising the service for some time.

Censorship feared from French online ethics commission
The French government is preparing a draft law creating an ethical commission for online communication services. The draft law is proposed by the Ministry of Finance and Industry and initially planned for the protection of minors, while guaranteeing respect for human dignity. The commission will be able to award and withdraw approval of any communication service which does not comply with the ethical principles which it lays down. The commission is not solely consultative, as it will be able to award and withdraw approval of online communications, including from hosts of websites and blogs, Internet service providers and mobile phone operators. The 23 members of this commission are nominated for 5 years.

Blog Posting Number: 669

Tag: ,

No comments: