Do websites provide enough (useful) contact information?
Have you ever tried to get hold of Ticketmaster by phone? We have, just now. There are no phone numbers displayed anywhere on their homepage; there isn't even a Contact Us link in the page's footer. In fact you've got to click on Customer Service, click the correct options on two sub-menus on their FAQ page before you discover this, which just can't do enough to put you off calling. Of course you may be taken in by Ticketmater's Contact us link on their Customer Service page, which lets you do no such thing.
Not a great example of going above and beyond to look after your customers, but probably not the worst. After all, Ticketmaster's phone number may be harder to find than a chocolate eclair at a Weight Watchers meeting, but at least it's there, somewhere. What about websites that stubbornly refuse to provide any means of two-way communication? If the UK takes its lead from Europe, change may be on the way.
In a recent German court case, a consumer body attempted to force an online insurance company to provide a contact number on their website. The long and the short of it was that the European Court of Justice weighed in and ruled that companies must provide a means of contact on their websites in addition to their postal and email addresses; this could be a telephone number or a contact form that is answered within an hour.
Great news for consumers, but unlikely to work in principle. The ruling isn't law in the UK, although if a similar case was brought to court, it's likely a judge would have little choice but to follow the ECJ ruling.
Struan Robertson, editor of out-law.com reckons: "The ruling could be interpreted as saying that businesses should have a team of people ready to answer customers' questions – which would be a huge problem for lots of companies.
"I can't see eBay opening a call centre just to deal with European users' queries."
We can't either, but does that mean they shouldn't? At the very least, surely there needs to be some requirement that allows customers to engage companies in near real-time conversation?
In the meantime, let's name some names: which companies actively refuse to provide anything other than an email and postal address? Which websites do have contact details, but bury them, like Ticketmaster, deep within some Egyptian-style maze of options and menus?