2. Complaints we handle
This section explains the types of complaints we will handle.
We handle complaints made by consumers
A person or business who can complain to us is called a consumer, meaning:
(a) a person or business who is an end-user of a telecommunications service;
An end-user is the person or business who uses (or intends to use) the service that is the subject of the complaint. This does not include an intermediate user of the service.
(b) a person or business directly affected by a telecommunications service;
This includes a person or business directly affected by failure to provide the service.
(c) an owner or occupier of land that has been or may be accessed or used by a telecommunications carrier.
We handle complaints against TIO members
We can only handle a complaint against a member of the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman scheme (called a TIO member). In these Terms of Reference, a Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman member in respect of which a complaint is made is called a provider.
TIO members are suppliers of telecommunications services (including retail and wholesale suppliers and carriage service intermediaries that arrange for the supply of telecommunications services), telecommunications carriers or other businesses that are members of the TIO scheme.
A consumer can use our register of members to check whether a business is a TIO member.
Most telecommunications carriers and suppliers of telecommunications services (including retail and wholesale suppliers and carriage service intermediaries that arrange for the supply of telecommunications services) are required by law to be members of the TIO scheme.
When complaints can be made
We only handle complaints after the complaint has been made to the provider.
We will not handle a complaint unless the consumer or their representative has already complained to the provider (either directly or through a representative of the provider) and given the provider a chance to consider the complaint.
If we can't handle a complaint because the consumer has not already given the provider a chance to consider the complaint, we may refer the consumer or their complaint to the provider to give the provider a chance to consider the complaint.
When we receive a complaint we will look at the date that the consumer discovered the problem they are complaining about.
(a) If it has been less than 2 years since that date, we can handle the complaint.
(b) If it has been between 2 and 6 years since that date, we will decide whether or not to handle the complaint.
We will consider things like the consumer's explanation for the delay and any impact the delay may have on the provider. If we decide not to handle the complaint, we may be able to suggest other ways the consumer could try to resolve the problem.
(c) If it has been more than 6 years since that date, we will not handle the complaint.
We may be able to suggest other ways that the consumer could try to resolve the problem.
Complaints we handle
We handle the following types of complaints:
(a) a consumer's complaint about any type of telecommunications service supplied or offered by a TIO member, or the supply of which is arranged by a TIO member, where the consumer is an end-user of the telecommunications service or is directly affected by the telecommunications service;
This includes complaints about:
- supply of a telecommunications service, such as a telephone, mobile or internet service
- breach of privacy
- faults with, or failure to supply, a telecommunications service or related goods
- billing and debt recovery
- manner of charging (but not setting of prices)
- operator services
- a white pages directory
- breach of an industry code where we are allowed by the code to handle a complaint
- repair and maintenance services
- directory assistance
(b) a consumer's complaint about a problem with telecommunications equipment supplied by a TIO member, or with a TIO member's network infrastructure, that affects the consumer's access to a telecommunications service supplied or offered by a TIO member;
This includes complaints about:
- faults with, or failure to supply, handsets, modems, routers and other types of equipment that a consumer uses to access a telecommunications service, and
- cabling up to the consumer's first telephone that is part of a TIO member's telecommunications network.
(c) a consumer's complaint about a telecommunications carrier's access or use, (or proposed access or use) of land the consumer owns or occupies.
The complaint must be about how the carrier has accessed or used (or may access or use) land under its statutory rights or under a contract with the consumer. Examples include a complaint about:
- use of the land under a contract between the consumer and the carrier
- how the carrier has used its statutory rights to access or use the land (but not a complaint about the commercial decision to access or use that land)
- failure to notify the consumer about the proposed use of the carrier's statutory rights
- failure by the carrier to limit detriment, inconvenience and damage if legally required to do so, or
- inadequate compensation where compensation is required by law.
We also handle any other type of complaint if the provider has asked us to handle the complaint and the consumer has agreed.
We will also handle a complaint by a consumer about a provider's agent, dealer, contractor, related company or related person. We will only hold the provider responsible if we think it is fair and reasonable to do so.
For example, in some cases we might think it is fair and reasonable to hold a provider responsible if:
- the other person, business or company is trying to collect a debt the consumer owes or owed to the provider; or
- the other person, business or company has supplied or agreed to supply equipment to the consumer that affects the consumer's access to a telecommunications service supplied or offered by the provider.
We have published a procedure about how we decide that it is fair and reasonable to hold a provider responsible for the action of someone else.
Complaints we don't handle
We don't handle complaints about:
(a) telecommunications policy;
(b) a commercial activity of a provider that is not related to providing a telecommunications service;
(c) a possible breach by a provider of a law against anti-competitive behaviour or restrictive practices;
(d) content the consumer accesses through a telecommunications service;
This includes, for example, information or multimedia content such as music and videos.
However, we can handle billing complaints about content
(e) customer equipment that is not for the purpose of accessing the service;
We can handle complaints about equipment mentioned in clause 2.7.
(f) cabling beyond the end of a telecommunications network;
but see clause 2.7(b)
(g) the setting of prices;
(h) business directories, for example the Yellow Pages;
although we can handle a complaint about a white pages directory
(i) the 000 emergency service.
If we can't handle a consumer's complaint we may refer the consumer to an organisation that we think can.
We will not handle a complaint where the specific issues raised by the complaint have been dealt with or are likely to be dealt with by a court or tribunal, or by a telecommunications or consumer regulator.
Consumers are able to start legal action after complaining to the TIO, but if they do so we will stop dealing with their complaint.
TIO members are not able to start legal action in relation to an issue that the TIO is dealing with apart from in certain circumstances- see clause 4.6.
If a consumer or TIO member discontinues legal proceedings that relate to a complaint issue, we may still consider that issue.