The conciliation procedure between Telecom Italia and the Consumer Associations who signed the framework agreement for the out-of-court settlement of telephone disputes, was the first example of joint conciliation in Italy. Introduced on a trial basis in 1991 by SIP, it was implemented throughout the country in 1993 and in 1995 the European Union recognised it as a “Pilot project for consumer access to justice”. The model is still used today but has been adapted over the years to fulfil new requirements, computerised and made easier to use, while maintaining the basic values that made it such an excellent tool, contributing to improving the transparency of the system, customer relations and a number of the Company’s operational processes. In 2011, the joint conciliation model was brought to the attention of the European Union and, on October 25 of the same year, the European Parliament recognised the “Italian joint conciliation model as an example of best practice based on a protocol drawn up and signed by the Company and consumer protection associations, under which the Company undertakes in advance to use ADR1 to settle any disputes that may arise in the areas covered by the protocol”. Twenty Consumer Associations have signed up to the conciliation agreement to date.
In 20009, in compliance with the voluntary undertakings given and approved by the Italian Communications Authority in December 2008, Telecom Italia also started managing conciliation requests submitted by customers at the offices of Co.Re.Com.2 and the Chambers of Commerce, thus providing a “single point of contact” and replicating the organisational model successfully applied for joint conciliations. This system allows customers who do not wish to approach a Consumer Association to use an alternative method for resolving their dispute through a streamlined and out-of-court procedure. Than handling of conciliations takes customer requirements into account and, regardless of the selected procedure, allows their relationship with the company to be improved.
The “single point of contact” model has so far allowed the undertakings given to AGCOM to be fulfilled and the expected qualitative and numerical results to be reached. The Co.Re.Com channel is in fact becoming increasingly popular compared to other channels (recourse to Chambers of Commerce is now secondary and accounts for fewer than 5% of conciliations). The positive trend seen in the conciliation system in previous years continued in 2015, in fact:
- approximately 96% of the requests for equal conciliation discussed (9,268 out of 9,668), a percentage that is stable year on year despite the clear increase in the practices discussed and recorded in 2015 with respect to 2014 (9,668 with respect to 6,642, or +45%);
- around 83% of applications discussed by the Co.Re.Com. and Chambers of Commerce (20,294 of 24,429). This percentage has remained at excellent levels despite the fact that, again in 2015, it experienced an increase in the practices discussed with respect to 2014 (24,429 as compared with 18,540, making for +32%).
Telecom Italia supported the conciliation activity by means of:
- seminars and joint training initiatives involving dedicated personnel from Telecom Italia, AGCOM, Co.Re.Com. and Consumer Associations;
- debates, conferences, interviews and other promotional activities involving senior management in order to disseminate the correct cultural approach to the subject.
Conciliation is becoming increasingly widespread among customers, particularly in view of the:
- large number of Co.Re.Com., which are opening provincial offices in many regions to make the conciliation system more easily available to people (avoiding the costs involved in travelling to regional capitals);
- better knowledge of the procedure, which is considered to be a quick and economical way of resolving disputes;
- economic crisis, which leads people to resort to conciliation even for small amounts (e.g. potential inefficiencies involved in transferring from one operator to another).
In Brazil, TIM has close relations with the National Consumer Secretariat (SENACON) and examines claims sent by the Consumer Protection and Defence Authority (PROCON).
In 2008, TIM created the Legal BackOffice tool, which manages the whole process of handling claims from customers dissatisfied with the solutions supplied by the Company and requesting the intervention of PROCON and the judiciary. This tool shortens the response time, reduces operating costs and improves relations between TIM and the official representatives of the above Bodies; Legal BackOffice thoroughly examines preliminary claims sent by PROCONs (i.e. before they become justified complaints). The Company’s legal department attends any conciliation hearings to settle justified complaints.
In 2015, TIM achieved excellent results in settling claims submitted by PROCON offices: CIPs (Preliminary Investigation Letters) 79.5%; justified complaints 74.7% (source: SENACON official report).
1 Alternative Dispute Resolution.
2 Regional Communication Committees.