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Standard Resolution Methods and Outcomes

Purpose

Introduction

1.0 Referral at Enquiry (Referral) and Level 1

2.0 Conciliation at Level 2

3.0 Investigation at Level 3 and 4

4.0 Decisions and recommendations

5.0 Outcomes


Purpose

The purpose of these Procedures is to broadly outline the key steps involved in each dispute resolution method we use to resolve matters in a fair, independent, economical, informal and fast way.


Introduction

We use a dispute resolution process that includes the following methods:

  • referral 
  • conciliation
  • investigation, and
  • determinative resolution

to address an Enquiry or resolve an Enquiry (Referral) or Complaint.

We are aware of possible imbalances in power and bargaining positions that may arise between consumers and providers, and seek to address any imbalance when considering an Enquiry, Enquiry (Referral) or Complaint.

We encourage the consumer and provider to resolve disputes together, with minimal TIO involvement, by considering each other's points of view and supporting information, and to agree on an outcome that is mutually acceptable. 

We will become more involved in the resolution process depending on:

  • the continuing conduct of the consumer or provider
  • the circumstances of the matter
  • available information, and 
  • the likelihood of a fair and reasonable resolution being achieved without our intervention.

A provider can offer a resolution at any time during the consideration of a matter. We will communicate this offer to the consumer directly, along with any additional information (including any relevant laws, good practice and TIO Position Statements) that the consumer may need to consider when deciding whether to accept the offer.

At any time we may:

  • informally consult with the consumer or the provider with a view to resolving the matter
  • when we consider the consumer or provider ought to be aware of information (including relevant legislative entitlements or standards of good practice) to resolve a dispute, give this information to the parties, or give the parties the means to find this information 
  • when we have a Position Statement relevant to the Complaint, give the parties information in line with the Position Statement. We may also provide the parties with a copy of the Position Statement, or tell them how to access this information
  • write to or speak with a consumer or provider to highlight the relative strengths and weaknesses of the matter, and encourage resolution in light of those strengths and weaknesses
  • when we consider we have sufficient information and reason to do so, stop handling a complaint 
  • when we consider we have sufficient information and reason to do so, refer the matter to another person or body who is able to handle the matter more effectively or conveniently than we can.

At any time during or following the consideration of a matter, the Ombudsman or Deputy Ombudsman may issue a written certificate stating that a provider has not met the Customer Service Guarantee Standard. 

When a Complaint cannot be resolved by referral, conciliation or investigation at the appropriate classification Level, and when there is sufficient information to do so, the Ombudsman or Deputy Ombudsman may:

  • decide the resolution of the Complaint, and
  • recommend that the provider take or not take further actions,

up to the monetary limits outlined in the TIO Terms of Reference.

If the total value of the Complaint is over $100,000, and the consumer and the provider agree, we may arbitrate the complaint instead of following TIO Complaint Handling Procedures.


1.0 Referral at Enquiry (Referral) and Level 1

1.1

When a matter has been classified as an Enquiry (Referral) or a Complaint we will refer the Enquiry (Referral) or Complaint to the provider to resolve it directly with the consumer.

1.2

When referring an Enquiry (Referral) or Complaint to a provider, either verbally or in writing, we will generally advise the consumer of the following:

  • the role of the TIO and principles of alternative dispute resolution
  • the function of the provider’s resolution department
  • the TIO reference number 
  • any restriction in our jurisdiction that might limit our ability to consider the Enquiry (Referral) or Complaint, now or in the future
  • where appropriate:
    • our initial assessment of the Enquiry (Referral) or Complaint on the basis of the information provided by the consumer
    • any relevant TIO Position Statements that may assist with resolution of the matter
    • the consumer’s right of Review of any TIO decision 
  • any credit management issues the consumer ought to be made aware of
  • any statutory rights that the consumer may have, and ought to be made aware of, and
  • when, if ever, to contact us again in the event that the matter remains unresolved.

1.3

When referring an Enquiry (Referral) or Complaint we may send the provider written notification containing:

  • the consumer's name 
  • the consumer's contact details and preferred contact method 
  • the TIO reference number 
  • the service ID of the service in question, if known 
  • approximate charges in dispute, if any 
  • the Keywords logged in the Complaint Management system
  • a summary of the matter, and 
  • the relevant referral timeframe

unless the provider has elected not to receive such information.

1.4 Ad hoc referral

1.4.1

When we have classified a matter as an Enquiry because it is not in our jurisdiction, but we think that consideration by the provider could help resolve it, we may refer the consumer to the provider's resolution department.

1.4.2

When referring the matter to a provider, either verbally or in writing, we will generally advise the consumer of the following:

  • why the Enquiry is not in our jurisdiction
  • the role of the TIO and principles of alternative dispute resolution, and
  • the function of the provider’s resolution department.

1.5 Referral to another organisation

1.5.1

When another organisation is able to handle a matter more effectively or conveniently than we can we will refer the consumer to that organisation.

1.6 Contact from the consumer during referral

1.6.1

When a consumer contacts us on more than one occasion during a referral, and there is no reason to escalate the Enquiry (Referral) or Complaint, we will: 

  • repeat the information given to the consumer when the Enquiry (Referral) or Complaint was referred, tailored to the circumstances 
  • give any new information that may be relevant, and 
  • update the Record.

1.7 Contact from the provider during referral

1.7.1

When the provider contacts us with new information, if there is no reason to escalate the Enquiry (Referral) or Complaint, for example if:

  • relevant referral timeframes have not expired, or
  • the consumer has not contacted us to claim that they are dissatisfied with the provider's response

we will attach the information to the Record, but will not assess, form an opinion, or offer advice about the information or its implications on the resolution of the matter.


2.0 Conciliation at Level 2

2.1 Commencing conciliation

2.1.1

Before escalating a Complaint to Level 2 we will contact the consumer and discuss the matter.

2.1.2

During the  discussion we identify:

  • if the matter has been resolved
  • if the provider has made an offer of resolution, and what it is
  • if the consumer is disadvantaged or vulnerable
  • if the matter is Urgent 
  • if the consumer is capable of taking part in the conciliation process, and
  • if and how the conciliation process should be adapted to meet the consumer's needs.

2.1.3

Adapting the conciliation process can involve:

  • communicating verbally instead of in writing
  • requesting that the provider communicate with us only, and not the consumer, or
  • any other reasonable variation on the procedure below.

2.1.4

We will give the consumer any relevant information, for example:

  • an explanation of our jurisdiction
  • statutory rights or legislative entitlements that the consumer may have
  • TIO Position Statements or industry codes that could be relevant
  • expectations the consumer should have about the reasonableness of his or her requested resolution, and
  • information about the conciliation process and the need for active participation.

2.1.5

When the Complaint is escalated to Level 2, we present the consumer’s claims and preferred resolution to the provider in writing.

2.1.6

The written notification to the provider includes:

  • a summary of the Complaint issues identified by the consumer and their requested resolution
  • a summary of additional Complaint issues we have identified 
  • for an Urgent Complaint, our expectations that the provider:
    • contacts the consumer to address the Urgent issues and start resolving the Complaint within 2 business days 
    • updates us about the Urgent issues within 2 business days, and
    • updates us about the Complaint within 10 business days
  • for a standard Complaint, our expectations that the provider both contacts the consumer to start resolving the Complaint and updates us within 10 business days
  • our contact details
  • any relevant TIO Position Statements, laws or industry codes that may assist with resolution of the Complaint
  • evidence required, if any
  • a summary of the steps we will take throughout the conciliation process, and
  • any interim requirements such as suspension of credit management on the consumer’s account.

2.1.7

We will also give the consumer written notification including:

  • an outline of the Level 2 process, including relevant timeframes and when we will contact the consumer again
  • a copy of the summary sent to the provider of:
    • the Complaint issues identified by the consumer
    • the Complaint issues we have identified, and 
    • the consumer’s requested resolution, and
  • any action that the consumer should be taking during the conciliation process, such as reporting faults each time they occur, and paying all undisputed amounts.

2.1.8

After 7 business days we may send the provider a reminder to contact us to respond to the Complaint.

2.2 Interaction with the consumer during Conciliation

2.2.1

When the consumer contacts us before any response has been received from the provider, we will add any new information the consumer may have about the Complaint to the Record.

2.2.2

If necessary we will provide the new information to the provider.

2.2.3

We will advise the consumer: 

  • of all relevant timeframes, including when we will contact the consumer again 
  • of alternative dispute resolution principles, the conciliation process and the importance of a non-adversarial attitude, and 
  • of any action that the consumer should be taking during the conciliation process, such as reporting faults each and every time they occur, and paying all undisputed amounts.

2.3 Shuttle conciliation

2.3.1

At any time during the conciliation process we may commence shuttle conciliation. This may involve:

  • putting a new offer made by one party to the other for further discussion and consideration, or 
  • asking for and viewing evidence to assist the parties in their consideration of the Complaint.

2.4 The response from the provider

2.4.1

When the provider contacts us to advise that the Complaint is resolved, and we are satisfied that the resolution appears fair and reasonable, we will contact the consumer to confirm they have accepted the provider's offered resolution.

2.4.2

When the provider contacts us to advise that the Complaint is not resolved, we will:

  • discuss the Complaint in depth 
  • ask questions that will assist resolution, such as:
    • Has the provider contacted the consumer again, and what occurred during that contact?   
    • What is its response to each of the consumer's claims?
    • What are the reasons for this response? 
  • discuss possible resolutions and if they appear fair and reasonable, and
  • offer relevant information about the Complaint, such as:   
    • pointing the provider to specific issues of the Complaint, relevant TIO  Position Statements, industry codes and laws, and explaining why they may be relevant to resolving the Complaint, and
    • outlining the principles of alternative dispute resolution and the Level 2 process.

2.4.3

When the provider chooses to provide a response in writing only, we may contact the provider to discuss the above.

2.4.4

When the consumer:

  • confirms they accept the provider’s offered resolution
  • does not accept the resolution but we do not consider investigation is warranted, or
  • cannot be contacted by us to discuss the offered resolution but the offered resolution appears to resolve the Complaint 

we will provide written confirmation, informing the consumer to contact us if the provider does not action the resolution.


3.0 Investigation at Level 3 and 4

3.1 Investigation at Level 3

3.1.1

When a Complaint is escalated to Level 3, we will begin an investigation based on the collection and consideration of evidence.

3.1.2

We will notify the provider and consumer in writing that an investigation will be conducted.

3.1.3

The written notification to the provider generally includes:

  • the reason(s) for the escalation of the Complaint
  • our expectation of a written response from the provider, the relevant timeframe to provide this response, and the consequences of failing to respond within the relevant timeframe
  • the information required from the provider  
  • any interim requirements such as suspension of credit management on the consumer’s account
  • our assessment of the Complaint issues so far
  • identification of the issues still in dispute
  • any inconsistencies in the claims of the consumer and the provider
  • questions about outstanding issues or inconsistencies that the provider is expected to answer
  • any relevant TIO Position Statements, laws or industry codes that may assist with resolution of the Complaint
  • any possible breaches of industry codes if the investigation shows the consumer’s claims to be correct
  • our contact details
  • an invitation to the provider to contact us to discuss the Complaint, and
  • copies of correspondence received from the consumer. 

3.1.4

The notification to the consumer generally includes:

  • an outline of the Level 3 process, including relevant timeframes and when we will contact the consumer again
  • a copy of the letter sent to the provider
  • a copy of any response received from the provider
  • any relevant evidence required from the consumer and the timeframe to give this to us, and
  • any relevant advice, for example:
    • statutory rights or legislative entitlements that the consumer may have
    • TIO Position Statements or industry codes that could be relevant
    • expectations the consumer should have about the reasonableness of his or her preferred resolution
    • instructions to report faults each and every time they occur, and 
    • paying undisputed charges. 

3.1.5

When the amount in dispute is less than $1,200 we may decide the resolution of the Complaint at Level 3 according to 4.0 below.

3.2 Written requests to the provider for more information at Level 3

3.2.1

When we decide to ask for more information from the provider without escalating the Complaint to Level 4, we will send a written request including:

  • the information the provider is required to provide
  • the expected timeframe for the provider to provide the information
  • the consequences should the provider not provide the information within the specified timeframe
  • our contact details, and
  • an invitation to the provider to contact us to discuss the Complaint,

tailored to suit the circumstances of the Complaint.

3.3 Continuing an Investigation at Level 4

3.3.1

When a Complaint is escalated to Level 4, we will notify the provider and consumer in writing that further investigation will be conducted.

3.3.2

The notification to the provider includes:

  • the reason(s) for the escalation of the Complaint
  • outstanding questions, issues, undertakings and concerns from the investigation at Level 3 that the provider has not yet addressed or actioned
  • information requested at Level 3 that has not yet been provided
  • our assessment of any information received so far
  • any new information required as a result of the evolution of the Complaint
  • the relevant timeframe for the provider to formally respond to all questions asked and with all information requested
  • our contact details, and
  • an invitation to the provider to contact us to discuss the Complaint.

3.3.3

The notification to the consumer generally includes:

  • an outline of the Level 4 process, including relevant timeframes and when we will contact the consumer again
  • a copy of the letter sent to the provider
  • a copy of any response received from the provider, and
  • any relevant information, for example:
    • our preliminary assessment of the unresolved issues 
    • statutory rights or legislative entitlements that the consumer may haveTIO Position Statements or industry codes that could be relevant 
    • expectations the consumer should have about the reasonableness of his or her preferred resolution 
    • instructions to report faults each time they occur, and 
    • paying undisputed charges.

3.4 Interaction with the consumer during Investigation

3.4.1

When the consumer contacts us before any written response has been received from the provider, we will add any new information the consumer may have about the Complaint to the Record.

3.4.2

We will generally advise the consumer:

  • of all relevant timeframes, including when we will contact the consumer again
  • of alternative dispute resolution principles, the investigation process and the importance of a non-adversarial attitude
  • that we will not form any view of the Complaint or offer advice about the fairness and reasonableness of any offered resolution until the response is received from the provider
  • of the consequences for the provider if the response is not received within the relevant timeframes, and 
  • of any action that the consumer should be taking during the investigation process, such as reporting faults each time they occur, and paying all undisputed amounts.

3.5 Our response to the consumer

3.5.1

When we have assessed the written response from the provider, we will contact the consumer to discuss the Complaint.

3.5.2

When we:

  • cannot determine that a provider’s offer of resolution is fair and reasonable, or
  • determine that a provider’s offer of resolution is not fair and reasonable,

we will explain this to the consumer, offer further investigation if the Complaint meets the criteria for escalation and the consumer remains dissatisfied, and may advise the consumer what a fair and reasonable outcome might be.

3.5.3

When the provider has not given us a written response within the relevant timeframe, we may escalate the Complaint without consultation with the consumer.

3.5.4

When we decide that:

  • based on the evidence presented, further investigation is not warranted
  • the consumer has accepted the provider’s offer to resolve the Complaint
  • the consumer needs time to consider the provider’s offer, or
  • we cannot make contact with the consumer to discuss the Complaint,

we will send a letter to the consumer, generally containing the following information:

  • a summary of the consumer’s claims, and preferred resolution
  • a summary of the provider’s response to the consumer’s claims, if a response has been provided
  • a copy of the written response from the provider, if it has been provided
  • our current view of the Complaint and the consumer’s preferred resolution 
  • where the provider has made an offer, our assessment of this offer in light of any evidence or additional information (including any relevant laws, good practice and TIO Position Statements) that the consumer may need to consider when deciding whether to accept the offer
  • whether further investigation is possible and if not, why not
  • if we have decided to stop handling the Complaint, the reasons for this decision
  • an invitation for the consumer to respond to the letter and present any new evidence
  • when we will close the Complaint, if no new evidence is presented or no response from the consumer is received
  • any consequences of closing the Complaint
  • any outstanding matters for the consumer to be aware of
  • any other avenues of recourse the consumer may have, and
  • the consumer’s right to a review of any TIO decision.


4.0 Decisions and recommendations

4.1

When a Complaint is not resolved and we consider that there is sufficient reason to make a decision and any recommendation, the Ombudsman or Deputy Ombudsman will give a Preliminary View of the decision and any recommendation to resolve the Complaint to the consumer and provider in writing.

4.2

The provider and consumer are invited to respond in writing to the Preliminary View within 20 business days, with reasons for their views and any new information they may have.

4.3

When a response from the provider or the consumer is not received within 20 business days, the Ombudsman or Deputy Ombudsman will consider whether a decision and any recommendation should be made.

4.4

When we receive a response from the consumer and the provider and both parties have agreed with the course of action outlined in the Preliminary View, a decision and any recommendation will generally not be necessary. We will document the agreed outcome and provide this to both the consumer and the provider.

4.5

In any other case or where additional information is provided by either party, the Ombudsman or Deputy Ombudsman will assess this information and make a final decision.

4.6

When the Ombudsman or Deputy Ombudsman makes a decision and any recommendation, we will:

  • send written notification to the provider and consumer:
    • explaining the decision and any recommendation of the Ombudsman or Deputy Ombudsman
    • advising that the decision is now automatically binding on the provider
    • addressing the relevant information and reasoning that led to the decision or recommendation
  • send a TIO Release Form to the consumer requesting that it be signed and returned within 15 business days, and
  • explain the consequences of either party accepting or declining the decision or recommendation.

4.7

When the consumer returns the signed TIO Release Form within 15 business days, we will forward the form to the provider.

4.8

When we forward the signed TIO Release Form, we will also give written notification to the provider which includes:

  • that the decision is binding on the provider 
  • that there is a timeframe of 15 business days to follow the course of action outlined in the decision, and
  • the consequences should the provider not follow the course of action outlined in the decision within the specified timeframe.

4.9

When the consumer does not return the signed Release Form within 15 business days we will take whatever action is appropriate in the circumstances. Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • contacting the consumer to discuss the consequences of not returning the signed Release Form
  • gaining the consumer’s verbal acceptance or non-acceptance of the decision and any recommendation if a signed Release Form is not possible or reasonable
  • extending the 15 business day timeframe to allow for the return of the signed Release Form if the consumer intends to return it, or
  • acting as if the consumer has not accepted the decision and any recommendation.

4.10

When the consumer returns the signed Release Form after 15 business days have elapsed, we may still forward it to the provider, and may still consider the consumer to have accepted the decision and any recommendation.

4.11

When the TIO Release Form has been forwarded to the provider, we may publish the decision (but not the name of the consumer) in accordance with the TIO Complaint Handling Procedures – Record Keeping and Protection of Information.

4.12

When the provider does not follow the course of action outlined in a decision, we may refer the provider to the ACMA for non-compliance in accordance with the TIO Complaint Handling Procedures – Refusal to join or failure to comply with the TIO Scheme

4.13

When the provider does not follow the course of action outlined in a recommendation, the provider may be named in the TIO Annual Report as being non-compliant with the recommendation.


5.0 Outcomes

5.1

When the consumer accepts an offer of resolution from a provider that we consider is fair and reasonable, we will consider the Complaint to be resolved.

5.2

When the consumer accepts an offer of resolution from a provider and considers the Complaint to be resolved, but we do not consider that the offer is necessarily fair and reasonable, we may explain our view of the offer to the consumer. 

5.3

Where we consider it appropriate to do so, we will offer the consumer the opportunity to consider the Complaint further.

5.4

When a consumer who has turned down an offer of resolution from a provider asks us to continue to consider the Complaint, and we consider it appropriate to investigate the Complaint further, we will advise the consumer that if we consider the Complaint further, the provider may not be bound by any previous offer.

5.5

If the consumer declines to accept a decision, by not signing and returning a TIO Release Form, the Ombudsman or Deputy Ombudsman may release the provider from any obligation to comply with his or her decision, and advise the consumer to pursue other remedies.

5.6

When the consumer accepts a decision by signing the Release Form, he or she fully releases the provider from all claims or subsequent actions in relation to the Complaint.


Effective Date: 5 July 2010

Updated on: 14 June 2016

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