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This section sets out definitions of terms used in the TIO Complaint Handling Procedures. The definitions are to be read in the context of the relevant Procedures.

ACCC: the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

ACMA: the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

associated third party: an individual or company acting on a provider’s behalf or providing telecommunications services or related goods connected to the service. This includes an:

  • agent, for example telemarketers and door to door sales people or technicians
  • dealer
  • contractor
  • related company, and
  • related person.

arbitration: a process in which the parties to a Complaint with a total value of over $100,000 present their points of view and evidence to the Deputy Ombudsman or Ombudsman who makes a binding decision.

Benchmarks: Commonwealth government benchmarks for dispute resolution schemes. The benchmarks are:

  • Accessibility
  • Independence
  • Fairness
  • Accountability
  • Efficiency, and
  • Effectiveness.

business day: unless the context requires otherwise, a clear day excluding a Saturday, a Sunday or a public holiday.

carrier: the holder of a carrier licence under the Telecommunications Act 1997.

case notes: notes that are made by a TIO Officer relating to an Enquiry, Complaint or Objection.

code breach: the view of a TIO Officer that there is a contravention of a clause or clauses of an industry code that has been registered with the ACMA, and over which we have accepted conferral of powers or functions under section 114 of the Telecommunications Act 1997.

consumer: a person or business who can complain to us, meaning:

  • a person or business who is an end-user of a telecommunications service 
  • a person or business directly affected by a telecommunications service, or
  • an owner or occupier of land that has been or may be accessed or used by a telecommunications carrier.

Complaint: an expression of grievance or dissatisfaction about a matter within our jurisdiction that the provider concerned has had  a chance to consider. Matters within our jurisdiction are set out in the TIO Terms of Reference.

Complaint data: information derived from matters dealt with by the TIO.

conciliation: a process in which, with our help, the parties to a matter identify the disputed issues to be resolved and reach a mutually acceptable resolution. This includes shuttle conciliation.

As conciliator, we work to encourage and help both consumers and providers to:

  • identify and openly discuss the complaint issues
  • consider creative options and alternatives, while having appropriate regard to laws, industry standards and what is fair and reasonable, and
  • agree on a resolution.

correspondence: letters or emails sent or received. Includes any attached documentation.

credit management: the processes by which a provider:

  • helps the consumer to manage his or her expenditure on goods and services
  • manages credit risk, and
  • collects outstanding debt.

determinative resolution: a process that is used when a matter remains unresolved after referral, conciliation or investigation at the appropriate classification level, where the Ombudsman or Deputy Ombudsman may decide or recommend the resolution of a Complaint up to the monetary limits outlined in the TIO Terms of Reference. This process involves the evaluation of evidence, assessment of the parties’ respective points of view and the formulation of a decision or recommendation having regard to relevant laws, good practice and what is fair and reasonable. 

disputed amount: a charge or charges making up part or all of a bill or bills, whether received or not, or applied or not, that a consumer claims should not have been charged by the provider.

documents: hard or soft copy evidence that includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • internet speed test results
  • customer system records
  • escalated complaint records
  • fault reports and technician notes
  • call data, including telephone records or bills ordinarily sent to customers, raw call data and SMS transcripts
  • copies of    
    • contracts and pre-sales advice, whether in written, electronic or audio format
    • advertisements for carriage services
    • terms and conditions of service
  • screen shots and web addresses of web pages
  • correspondence between parties
  • financial records such as profit and loss statements and bank statements
  • documentation to support whereabouts such as school enrolment reports, or letters from employers
  • correspondence from and to, and internal records of associated third parties such as    
    • mobile premium service providers
    • debt collection agencies
    • contractors who do work on cabling, trenching or faults
    • wholesale providers
  • written statements from    
    • the provider
    • representatives of the provider such as door to door salespeople or staff of retail outlets
    • associated third parties
    • the consumer and other persons associated with the complaint.

eligible carriage service provider: a carriage service provider as defined in section 127 of the Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Act 1999.

Enquiry: a matter that we do not classify as a Complaint, including where, in our view:

  • the consumer
    • chooses to remain anonymous 
    • is requesting information only
    • is expressing a grievance but has not given the provider a chance to consider the matter, or 
    • is making the complaint for an unacceptable reason, for example only to annoy the provider, or
  • the matter 
    • is resolved
    • is outside our jurisdiction 
    • could be raised with another organisation able to handle it more effectively or conveniently than we can, or 
    • is currently being, or has already been, dealt with by a court or tribunal, or by a telecommunications or consumer regulator.

We take no formal role in an Enquiry, and aim to most effectively help the consumer.

Enquiry (Referral): a type of Enquiry where it is not yet appropriate to register a Complaint because it appears the consumer discovered the problem they are complaining about less than 2 years before contacting us, but has not given the provider a chance to consider the matter.

Matters within our jurisdiction are set out in the TIO Terms of Reference.

evidence: information which may support a position taken by a consumer, provider or other party.

fair: just, unbiased, equitable, impartial.

financial hardship: a situation when a consumer is willing to pay a debt but does not currently have the financial capacity to do so according to their contractual obligations. Financial hardship can be a short or long term situation.

information: facts, data or knowledge relevant to a matter that we may collect from consumers, providers, TIO Officers and other parties. This includes, but it not limited to:

  • correspondence
  • documentation
  • evidence
  • verbal statements
  • TIO Records
  • personal information of residential consumers and business representatives
  • provider business details such as name, ABN or ACN number, and contact details
  • verbal or written authority given for another person to speak on behalf of the consumer
  • identification of the account holder for a service
  • service identifiers
  • disputed amounts
  • preferred resolutions
  • provider responses to matters
  • views of TIO officers, consumers, providers or other parties
  • summaries of decisions we made and the reasons for the decisions, and
  • TIO Position Statements, laws or industry codes.

investigation: a process in which the parties to a matter provide us with their points of view and any relevant information. We may analyse the points of view and information, discuss the relative strengths and weaknesses of the matter, and make a finding or propose a resolution in light of those strengths and weaknesses, having regard to relevant laws, good practice and what is fair and reasonable.

Investigation involves some or all of the following:

  • review and analysis of the parties’ claims and respective points of view
  • collection, review and analysis of information from the parties
  • requesting specific testing by the provider and provision of test results
  • discussions with the provider and the consumer
  • requesting information from third parties, for example, wholesale providers, experts or specialists (including legal advice)
  • consideration of relevant laws
  • consideration of good practice including any industry codes
  • consideration of TIO Position Statements, and
  • consideration of the individual circumstances of the case,

with the aim to achieve a fair and reasonable resolution.

land access activity: land entry, low impact facility or maintenance activity by the carrier.

land entry activity: any of the following activities of the carrier:

  • entering on, or inspecting, land for the purposes of determining whether any land is suitable for its purposes
  • doing anything on the land that is necessary or desirable for that purpose, including, for example, making surveys, taking levels, sinking bores, taking samples, digging pits and examining the soil
  • entering on land for the purposes of surveying or obtaining information in relation to any land that, in the carrier’s opinion, is or may be suitable for its purposes, or
  • doing anything on the entered land that is necessary or desirable for that purpose, including, for example, making surveys and taking levels.

low impact facility activity: any of the following activities of the carrier:

  • installing a low-impact facility, or
  • carrying out an activity for purposes in connection with the installation of a low-impact facility.

maintenance activity: any of the following activities of the carrier:

  • maintaining a facility, or
  • carrying out an activity for purposes in connection with the maintenance of a facility.

matter: one (or more) issue or concern brought to the TIO by a consumer that may give rise to one (or more) Enquiry, Complaint or Objection.

OAIC: the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.

Objection: a referral to the TIO of an unresolved objection by an Objector to a carrier that plans to undertake land access activity.

Objector: owner or occupier of land on which a carrier plans to undertake land access activity, who makes an Objection.

offer of resolution: an offer made by either party where if it was unconditionally accepted by the other party, the matter would be resolved.

Preliminary View: our view on a matter, having regard to relevant laws, good practice and what is fair and reasonable, based on the relevant evidence that has been provided, and our consideration of the views presented by both parties in support of their respective positions. The Preliminary View also contains our recommendation for a resolution to the matter. 

provider: a supplier of telecommunications services, telecommunications carrier or other business that is a member of the TIO scheme.

provider’s resolution department: the area nominated by the provider to receive referral from the TIO of matters raised by consumers with a view to resolution of these matters. 

reasonable: within the limits of reason; not greatly less or more than might be thought likely or appropriate.

Reclassification Request: a provider’s request for us to reconsider a decision about the classification of a Complaint or Objection.

Record: information we collected about an Enquiry, Complaint, or Objection.

referral: a process in which the parties to a dispute are given the chance to resolve the dispute directly with each other with limited TIO involvement.

Response: the written assessment of evidence and summary of our view of a matter that is sent to the consumer during conciliation or an investigation.

service ID: a form of identification, such as a telephone number, email address, or service address, that a provider can use to identify the consumer, and the service in dispute, within its system.

shuttle conciliation: a process in which we take a more active role in conciliating a dispute, by open discussion with both parties, and consideration of creative options and alternatives, while having appropriate regard to relevant law, good practice, and what is fair and reasonable.

systemic issue: a concern about a system, process or practice of a provider or providers that may or does affect a significant number or particular type of consumers.

TIO: the Office of the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman or the Ombudsman (as appropriate to the specific context in these Procedures).

TIO Ltd: the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman Limited, a public company limited by guarantee and not having share capital, established to administer the TIO Scheme.

TIO Scheme: a scheme which provides a dispute resolution service for complaints about telecommunications services.

TIO Position Statement: a public document subject to regular change and review, providing guidance about our current approach to the handling and resolution of particular types of matters.

TIO Release Form: a form that, when signed by the consumer, releases the provider from any further obligation with regard to the Complaint once all directions given in a binding decision have been followed or actioned by the provider.

undisputed amount: any charges that are, in our view, legitimate and not disputed by the consumer.

Urgent Complaint: a Complaint where in our view, following standard TIO procedure could be detrimental to the consumer. Examples include, but are not limited to, where:

  • there is a delay in connecting a new service, repairing a faulty service or the consumer’s service is about to be disconnected, where the consumer or another person has a serious health or safety issue, or may be put in a position of vulnerability as a result
  • there is a safety risk to the consumer or another person, for example as a result of a silent line disclosure or the installation of a temporary cable in a hazardous manner
  • the matter is causing or contributing to ongoing financial detriment of the consumer’s business
  • the consumer is in a situation of financial hardship following a direct debit in favour of the provider
  • the consumer is at risk of loss of finance as a result of a default listing by the provider
  • there is a delay in transferring a service from one provider to another, and industry standard timeframes have expired, or
  • a landline service cannot be connected until another party’s service is disconnected first, and industry standard timeframes have expired.

vulnerability: a condition where one party, in our view, is at risk of serious disadvantage to another party, due to conditions including, but not limited to:

  • low or no income
  • level of reading, writing and numerical skills
  • disability
  • serious or chronic illness, including psychiatric illness
  • the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • homelessness
  • relative youth
  • old age
  • recent institutionalisation or displacement
  • residence in a remote area
  • an indigenous background
  • a non-English speaking background
  • relatively recent arrival in Australia, or
  • other temporary circumstances, such as bereavement, accident or natural disaster.

Effective Date: 5 July 2010 

Updated on: 14 June 2016

Billing dispute and suspended service

Case Study Small Business

A small business had their internet services deactivated due to a misunderstanding on billing.

Next step?              

  • make an online complaint
  • 1800 062 058                
  • Write PO Box 276
    Collins Street West Vic 8007                            
  • National Relay Service Call on 1800 555 677 then ask for 1800 062 058            
  • Fax our consumer complaint form to 1800 630 614