ODA Investigation ProceduresODA Members are required to have appropriate customer service arrangements. As is normal with self-regulatory arrangements in the commercial sector members are expected to deal directly with companies over their services, billing and associated matters.
The ODA does not seek to divert complaints from this process. The ODA’s responsibility is to ensure that no complaints involving serious non-compliance with the Code of Practice go unaddressed and that the Association does become involved in situations where ODA Members are not dealing responsibly with complaints or the complaints are of a kind or/and on a scale that suggests an investigation of code compliance is needed.
The ODA will consider any complaints made to it on this basis. It will refer complaints to ODA Member companies to answer unless the number and nature of the complaints give the Association cause to act.
The ODA will log the complaints referred to ODA Members to ensure they are addressed. In cases of uncertainty over the possible seriousness of a case the ODA will ask the ODA Member to brief it on the matter and then confirm whether the case is being left with the Member company to resolve.
If a case appears to merit formal investigation the ODA may talk with complainants as necessary to get an understanding of the concerns. It will put the matter to the ODA Member or Member companies involved. This will be done in writing with an explanation of the complaint or concern and reference to the Code provisions which may have been breached, and where an adjudication might be made.
The ODA will take a decision on whether to continue with a formal investigation and adjudication based on an assessment of the response received. A complaint can be set aside as out of remit, scaled down for informal resolution or upgraded to a formal case based on developments and the evidence seen.
ODA Member’s will be given no less than 10 and up to 28 days in which to respond to an ODA request for comment. This timeframe may be revised by agreement if circumstances require.
ODA Members are under a duty to co-operate with the ODA in these circumstances. The ODA may, however, proceed to an adjudication based on the complaint and the work of the Executive if a member company fails to co-operate or contribute to the exercise. The ODA would expect generally to proceed to an adjudication in a situation in which a member company decided to end its membership during an investigation.
It is open to the ODA Member and the ODA Executive to propose a meeting if this would assist the consideration of the case. This does not, however, remove the member’s right and duty to respond formally in writing to address the issues raised.
The ODA is ready to use such meetings to explore the potential for some form of arbitrated resolution – if the member and Association can identify ways of addressing the harm and Code issues without the Association having to proceed to a formal determination.
In cases where resolution cannot be reached the ODA Executive will, on completion of its investigation, submit a report to an Adjudication Panel. The Panel will consider the case at a meeting convened for this purpose alone.
The consideration is in closed session – members of the Panel with support from the Executive. It is, however, open to the ODA Member to meet with the Panel before their formal deliberations start. The meeting is by way of an Informal Representation. It is an opportunity for the ODA Member to explain its business model and approach. The session is 15-30 minutes in length. It is not a formal hearing, but an opportunity for the ODA Member and the Panel to deal with any uncertainties or residual worries before the Panel proceeds to its adjudication. The ODA Member cannot be present at that adjudicatory stage.
The decisions of the Adjudication Panel are final. It is for the Panel to decide on appropriate sanctions. This responsibility is qualified in relation to termination of a company’s membership.
If the Panel believe termination or suspension of membership is a proportionate response the Panel will make this recommendation to the ODA Board. The ODA is a membership organisation and it is for the Board to take a final decision on suspension or termination.
In such a situation the Board is not there to re-hear a case. The Board will proceed on the basis the Panel has conducted a proper investigation and reached reasonable decisions on the code breaches alleged. It is for the Board to consider whether the breaches found merit a sanction of suspension or termination of membership. Exceptionally the Board may conclude the Panel has not followed procedures and has reached a perverse decision. In such circumstances the Board may make such directions as it sees fit consistent with the organisation’s Articles of Association.
Decisions of the Adjudication Panel and any membership decision by the ODA Board will be published on the ODA website. The ODA may issue a Press Statement or take other action to communicate a decision if this seems necessary in the circumstances. The ODA would expect also to exercise a proper degree of transparency in recording any circumstances in which a case has been brought to closure through some mediated settlement.
The ODA can conduct a subsequent investigation, most probably based on requirements in Section 1 of the Code of Practice if an ODA Member does not act to comply with the Code of Practice and address issues identified in an adjudication.
The Adjudication Panel arrangements are set out here.