Turkey: Draft Principles and Procedures on the Resolution of Consumer and User Complaints by Operators and Service Providers

Last Updated: 12 March 2018
Article by Gönenç Gürkaynak Esq and İlay Yılmaz

Most Read Contributor in Turkey, March 2019

The Information and Communication Technologies Authority ("Authority") published the Draft Principles and Procedures on the Resolution of Consumer and User Complaints by Operators and Service Providers ("Draft") on its official website on November 13, 2017, in order to obtain opinions and comment from the public and other stakeholders. The Draft aims to determine the responsibilities of the service providers and operators regarding complaints received from consumers and users. The Draft applies to the resolution of complaints between (i) operators, who provide electronic communication services, and their subscribers, and (ii) service providers, who provide post services, and their users.

According to the Draft, operators and service providers will be obliged to provide a complaint system through a website, where complaints can be sent by the consumers/users and received and responded to by the operators/services providers. The purpose of this obligation is to ensure that the consumers and users are able to reach fast, seamless, easy and effective solutions for their complaints and to enable operators and service providers to take preventive measures. Moreover, the Draft indicates that the liability of operators/service providers is not limited to their own services. Their responsibility also covers services provided by third parties, who are not operators.

The Draft sets down a time frame for complaints to be resolved. Consumer/user complaints sent through the complaint systems should be resolved within 15 (fifteen) days as of the date of the complaint by the operators or service providers, without prejudice to the provisions of other regulations. This legal period applies to all complaints, including the initial complaint and ensuing complaints about a particular issue. If complaints cannot be resolved within 15 days for reasons that are not related to (or in the control of) the operator/service provider, the consumer/user should be notified to this effect without delay. This notification should include, at a minimum, the reasons for the delay, the expected date of resolution, and other alternative measures that could be taken to provide the user/consumer with the requested benefit or desired outcome. The complaints and the responses to these complaints and other documents related to the complaint resolution process should be recorded and kept for a minimum of 2 (two) years by the operators/service providers.

Operators and service providers are required to consider certain factors and conditions when establishing their complaint systems. In particular, the Draft regulates that the complaint system needs to comply with the conditions set forth in Annex 1 of the Draft. According to Annex 1: (i) a consumer/user complaints section should be placed on the homepage of the operator/service provider's website, (ii) the system must be easy-to-use and free of charge, (iii) the protection of personal data must be ensured, (iv) consumers and users must be able to receive feedback through the complaint system, and (v) consumers and users must be able to easily follow up on their complaints.

The Draft goes even further and indicates that complaints must first be sorted according to certain headings, which will be determined by the Authority. The headings are not limited to those already specified in the Draft, but these minimum requirements can be subject to change from time to time and can be modified by the Authority. The purpose of sorting out the complaints according to such headings pursuant to the Draft is to prevent repetitive/duplicate complaints, so that the reporting stage can be easily completed by the Authority.

The manner in which the complaint system will be carried out in practice is also regulated by the Draft. Operators who have more than 200,000 (two hundred thousand) users and service providers that are authorized to provide service on a national level, are obliged to convey all complaints and responses to the Authority through a secure network, as of reiteration of a complaint. Complaints that are made through the complaint systems may be repeated 3 (three) times after the initial complaint has been recorded. The maximum period of time for the same consumer/user to repeat his or her complaint, under the same heading and for the same service, is limited to 3 (three) months. Without prejudice to other regulations, if a consumer/user complaint sent through the complaint system is not responded to by the operators/service providers even after the allotted period of 15 days has passed, then the complaint can be repeated/resubmitted by the consumer or user. Necessary and appropriate measures should be taken by the operator/service provider to ensure that the same consumer/user does not file a new complaint under the same heading for the same service number.

Other operators/service providers who are not covered by the foregoing criteria (i.e., operators with fewer than 200,000 users or local service providers) are obliged to report the complaints they receive in accordance with Annex 2 of the Draft and transmit these reports to the Authority when requested.

Furthermore, operators/service providers are required to determine the areas in which they receive elevated numbers of complaints and are obliged to take preventive measures in these particular critical areas and to implement the necessary changes and improvements. Operators and service providers are also responsible for taking the necessary and appropriate measures for consumers and users who have not submitted complaints, and are also required to inform the Board when necessary.

The Draft does not explicitly state the consequences of failing to comply with the principles and procedures laid down in the document, but instead refers to the Information and Communication Technologies Authority Administrative Sanctions Regulation and the Regulation on Administrative Sanctions in the Postal Sector, and states that the provisions therein will be applicable in terms of the implementation of the Draft. If the Draft is issued in its current form, it will enter into force on the date of its publication in the Official Gazette.

This article was first published in Legal Insights Quarterly by ELIG, Attorneys-at-Law in March 2018. A link to the full Legal Insight Quarterly may be found here.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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