The purpose of these guidelines is to provide information about how we approach systemic issues.
In addition to resolving individual Complaints, we also look at issues that may affect a number of customers of one provider or, in the case of industry-wide issues, of a number of providers.
We handle systemic issues under the Terms of Reference.
The Terms of Reference define a systemic issue as 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. We can handle a systemic issue with or without a Complaint.
The systemic issues procedure has four stages:
- Identification - identifying and assessing a systemic issue
- Notification - notifying a provider about a systemic issue and when appropriate, seeking a response
- Investigation - investigating a systemic issue and working with the provider to resolve it
- Report - reporting on systemic issues.
1.0 Identifying a systemic issue
We identify potential systemic issues through a range of methods, including through:
- handling Complaints
- analysing complaint trends, or
- receiving other information that may suggest a systemic issue. This could include information from consumers, the media or regulators.
2.0 Notification of a systemic issue
When we identify a potential systemic issue we will:
- raise the issue directly with the provider
- explain our observations of the impact of the issue on consumers, and
- ask the provider for a response.
When the provider’s response is received we will decide if any further action on the issue is required.
3.0 Commencing an investigation
When we decide that an issue is likely to be systemic and warrants investigation, we will notify the provider in writing and ask for a response in writing. The purpose of the investigation is to assist us to fully understand the systemic issue and any options to resolve it.
The written notification to the provider will outline the nature of the potential systemic issue, and may include the following:
- questions to help us assess the nature of the issue, its causes and the level of consumer detriment
- requests for information and evidence including data, contracts, voice recordings, and policy and procedural information
- a suggestion to meet with the provider to discuss the systemic issue and help with a possible resolution
At any time during our investigation we may request further information about the systemic issue.
4.0 Working towards resolution
If it is determined that the issue is a systemic issue, we will work with the provider, through consultation and negotiation, to reach an agreed resolution.
This may include a meeting between the Ombudsman and relevant people from the provider to discuss the issue and its resolution.
When the provider proposes a resolution that is acceptable to the Ombudsman, it must implement the resolution within an agreed timeframe.
5.0 When a systemic issue cannot be resolved
If a systemic issue cannot be resolved or if an agreed resolution is not implemented, further action may include:
- making recommendations to the provider for resolving the issue.
Under the Terms of Reference, the provider must consider our recommendations and take steps to resolve the issue
- reporting the systemic issue to the Chief Executive Officer of a provider, with the expectation that the issue and any recommended resolution be further considered,
- referring the systemic issue to an appropriate regulator, such as the ACMA, the ACCC, the OAIC or another appropriate body.
We will notify the provider when we formally refer the systemic issue to a regulator.
6.0 Reporting on systemic issues
We will regularly report on our work in handling systemic issues. This includes:
- providing information as requested by the ACMA, the ACCC, or other relevant regulators about systemic issues
- providing information to providers or their representative organisations, and
- reporting to the community including in the Annual Report, on the TIO website and through regular publications.
Effective date: 5 July 2010
Updated on: 2 July 2018