Industry codes of practice and TIO complaints
The telecommunications industry has a set of minimum standards for service providers called industry codes of practice. These industry codes are published on the Communications Alliance website.
We use industry codes to help consumers and service providers understand and resolve complaints.
Industry codes in referral of TIO complaints
Industry codes in conciliation of TIO complaints
At conciliation, as with referral, a “possible” issue with any code rule that may be relevant to the complaint is noted on the complaint record.
Points to note about the use of industry codes during conciliation include:
- In our conciliation notification to a service provider, we will refer to any code rules which may provide context and guidance for resolving the complaint.
- When we discuss a complaint with a consumer, we may tell the consumer about relevant code rules so they understand the industry context in which complaint events may have occurred and what is generally expected of providers in such circumstances.
- When the service provider tells us how it has responded to a complaint, we will consider any resolution the provider has offered the consumer. If we assess that the provider has not considered a code rule that may have a bearing on the resolution, we may discuss the rule with the service provider.
- Other factors that may also influence a resolution include the law, TIO position statements and the circumstances of the complaint.
Example: industry codes in conciliation of a TIO complaint
If a consumer’s unresolved Referral (Level 1) was about a charge on a bill dating back more than five months, our conciliation notification would ask the service provider to consider the section in the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code on Bill Timeliness (s 5.4).
If the service provider were to respond with an offer to withdraw the delayed charges (which the consumer accepts), we would consider the matter to be resolved.
If the service provider were to respond with an offer to reduce some but not all of the delayed charges, we may ask the provider what it discovered when it looked into the matter.
If the service provider’s answers (and information from the consumer) suggest that:
- the usage for the charge may have happened more than 160 days ago
- the charge was billed for the first time over 160 days later, and
- there seems to be no allowable reason for the billing delay,
we would ask the service provider to reconsider its offer, given there is a code rule saying a provider must not bill charges incurred over 160 days previously. The provider may decide that to follow the code rule they would need to withdraw the full charge.
Industry codes in investigation of TIO complaints
For complaints that proceed to
- the Ombudsman has accepted conferral of power to record, facilitate the resolution of, investigate and report on complaints for specific industry codes. This includes reporting on service providers’ compliance with those codes.
- the TIO has an obligation to report confirmed breaches of industry codes to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), and
- code rules are used to assess service providers’ responses to complaints and guide the parties to an appropriate resolution. If a complaint cannot be resolved by referral, conciliation or investigation, code rules may guide the Ombudsman’s formal
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We undertake investigation of code issues within the investigation of complaints. Points to note include:
- We will decide if a code rule has been breached after the complaint is resolved and before it is closed.
- We decide by evaluating all information provided and available to us about the complaint and the code issues, including any response from the service provider to the code issues.
- We will only decide a code rule has been breached if the information available to us indicates that a service provider did not comply with a code rule. If the information or evidence provided or available to us demonstrates, on the balance of probability, that a service provider complied with the code, we will decide that there was no code breach.
- If we decide that there has been a breach of an industry code, we will give the service provider an opportunity to comment on our interpretation. We will consider the provider’s response to our interpretation before we decide whether there has been a breach that should be reported to the ACMA.
- We record our findings in the TIO’s complaints management system. We will tell the service provider about our decision when the complaint is closed.
- As in conciliation, we may discuss the code rules with a consumer during an investigation.
- We do not require consumers to prove that code rules have been breached, because:
- we are an alternative dispute resolution body – not a court
- the codes contain rules for service providers to follow, not consumers – who may not know very much about industry codes.
Reporting of code information
For TIO members, we publish monthly reports on possible code issues and confirmed code breaches on the TIO member portal.
We also report on code data to:
- Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)
- Communications Alliance
- Communications Compliance
- Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
- Australian Communications Consumer Action Network
- the general public in our annual report.
Have a question?
Contact the Stakeholder Engagement team via email or phone 03 8680 8449.