The TIO helps boost consumer confidence because people know that they can rely on our service if a problem arises with their provider, we told a Victorian government inquiry into access to justice. Court systems across Australia could also benefit from more actively referring complaints to dispute resolution services.
The TIO made a submission responding to a Victorian Government inquiry that explored ways to improve access to justice for people in that state. The TIO contributed by providing an overview of how it helps consumers and telcos resolve disputes quickly, easing pressure on the Courts system.
We told the inquiry that our civil justice system can leverage on the expertise and effectiveness of Ombudsman schemes by referring appropriate disputes to them. These referrals may have the added benefit of encouraging service providers and consumers to engage in alternative dispute resolution processes earlier if they know that a Court is likely to refer them to an Ombudsman.
This may assist with earlier resolution of disputes, preventing issues from evolving into bigger problems and absorbing valuable court resources. It could also save individuals and organisations the financial, time and emotional costs of protracted disputes.
The TIO is one example of how industry-based Ombudsman schemes can improve access to justice by providing a fast, free and fair dispute resolution service to telecommunications consumers and service providers.
Dispute resolution benchmarks
The benchmarks for dispute resolution are the foundation for services such as the TIO.
We demonstrate our commitment to these benchmarks by:
- Providing an accessible service. Consumers have many avenues to contact our free service, and our website complies with web accessibility guidelines. We also reach out to consumers who may have barriers to knowing about our service by attending community events across Australia.
- Being independent. We conduct regular reviews of the TIO and seek feedback about our services to our stakeholders to ensure that we continue to meet their needs and those of the community.
- Being fair. We follow clear complaint handling procedures and position statements to ensure that we handle each complaint consistently and fairly.
- Providing an efficient service. Most of our complaints are resolved within 10 days at the first stage of our process, in which we refer consumers to the right person at their telco to solve their problem.
- Being effective. Our functions and powers are regularly reviewed to ensure that we can address the vast number of complaints we receive in a fast-changing telecommunications industry.
- Being accountable. We report regularly on the number and type of consumer complaints we receive, highlighting common issues reported to us by consumers.
Other ways we improve access to justice
As well as offering an accessible, fast and cost-effective dispute resolution service, the TIO contributes to improvements in telco regulation through expert and independent research.
Some of our contributions included recommendations that were adopted in:
- The Australian Communications and Media Authority's Reconnecting the Customer Inquiry
- the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code 2012
- Financial hardship principles and practices for telco providers
- the International Mobile Roaming Standard, and
- consumer protections for mobile premium services.