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Consumers allowed more time in which to make a complaint

14 May 2013

The TIO Constitution specifies the time within which the TIO can accept a complaint from a consumer. Currently the time limit is 1 year from when the consumer became aware of the events that caused the complaint. The TIO has discretion to extend this to 2 years.  Complaints made more than 2 years after a consumer became aware of the relevant events cannot be accepted.

In the past year, the Ombudsman, TIO Council and TIO Board have considered the question of the time in which a complaint must be made in detail.  As a result, and following consultation with relevant Commonwealth Ministers, the time limits will be extended.

From 1 July 2013, the time within which the TIO can accept a complaint from a consumer will be 2 years from when the consumer became aware of the events that caused the complaint.  The Ombudsman will also have discretion to extend this time to 6 years in certain circumstances.  Complaints made more than 6 years after a consumer became aware of the relevant events will not be accepted.

The new time limits align more closely to:

  • the National Benchmarks for industry Ombudsman
  • time limits of other national Ombudsman offices
  • statutes of limitation for simple contracts, and
  • current industry practice, for example:
    • the 2 year time limit matches the most common length of a telecommunications contract, and
    • the 6 year time limit allows for most or all pre and post contractual interactions, including handling the root causes of disputed default listings.
The decision to accept complaints where the consumer became aware of the complaint events between 2 to 6 years before contacting the TIO will be made after considering:

  • if there is an acceptable explanation for the delay
  • if extending time will cause any prejudice to the service provider
  • if extending time is fair and reasonable in the circumstances, and
  • the merits of the complaint.

More details about changes to TIO processes will follow in MNews in June 2013. A new Complaints Handling Procedure will also be published. 

If you have any questions, please contact members@tio.com.au

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