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2020 Terms of Reference Modernisation

Draft device and equipment guidance for public comment  

The modernised Terms of Reference, effective from 1 January 2022, preserved the TIO’s jurisdiction to consider complaints about telecommunications equipment.

In approving the new Terms of Reference, the Board accepted recommendations from an external consultant, which require updated guidance on the TIO website to: 

  • re-establish the TIO’s coverage of complaints about handsets, modems and routers purchased from a member (as set out in italicised text accompanying the device and equipment clause in the previous Terms of Reference)
  • include complaints about mobile phones, smart phones, and tablets purchased from a member.

We have developed draft guidance to give effect to this recommendation as accepted by the Board, and we welcome feedback on the document from stakeholders. 

The draft guidance can be found at the following link: Guidance on complaints about equipment

If you have feedback, please write to us at by 25 March 2022.

Update 1 January 2022 

Modernised Terms of Reference

The TIO’s revised Terms of Reference (ToR) came into effect from 1 January 2022. Alongside the ToR, we have new guidance on how compensation for non-financial loss will be put into practice, and also a revised guide to our systemic investigations work.

The TIO is continuing to work on the approach to joining members (telcos) to complaints. Further updates on this will be available later in the year.

Update 26 November 2021

Joining members to a complaint

Responses to the survey on joining members to a complaint confirmed there are significant issues to be worked through. With the endorsement of the Board, we will not implement the power to join members to a complaint until we finalise the process, which is likely to be early in 2022.

Non-financial loss guidance

Download finalised guidance: Non-financial loss

In response to feedback on the draft guidance for awarding compensation for non-financial loss, we made changes to:

  • Remove the potential for the financial limit to apply to multiple events within the one complaint
  • remove the statement about awarding compensation for non-financial loss if the consumer doesn’t raise it
  • add consideration of reasonable steps taken by the provider to minimise the impact
  • remove the obligation on the consumer to make a member aware of extenuating circumstances
  • align language with AFCA’s guidance by changing ‘reasonably robust’ to ‘moderately robust’.

Some feedback called for case studies showing how compensation for non-financial loss would be applied in practice. We agree this would be useful, and will add case studies as decisions are made.

Our dispute resolution teams are developing processes to ensure a consistent approach in determining what is fair and reasonable compensation for non-financial loss. Decisions involving non-financial loss will be subject to the same delegated approvals as our current decisions, and we will review cases on a regular basis. Both the Ombudsman and Assistant Ombudsman Dispute Resolution will be involved in early decisions.

Systemic issue guidance

Download finalised guidance: Systemic issues

The revised guideline on dealing with systemic issues provides transparency on our expectations of members when we exercise our systemic issue powers. The guidance includes timeframes for requesting information and how we may exercise our recommendation powers (including publication).

In response to feedback on referring matters to a regulator, the guidance now clarifies the only time we would not notify a member that we have referred an issue to a regulator is when the regulator specifically requests this. Our systemic issues team works closely with members and makes it clear throughout our systemics investigation that if we have unresolved concerns about the issues, we may refer the issue to a regulator. Members have the opportunity to respond to issues we raise throughout the systemics process.

After considering feedback on the timeframes in the guidance, we have not made changes to these. Information on timeframes are included in the guidance to provide transparency, especially for those providers who are not involved in our systemic issues regularly. The guidance reflects current practice and the timeframes are reasonable based on ongoing feedback from members who have experience with our systemics work. We will continue to assess extension requests on a case by case basis.

We received some feedback that was more about the operational aspects of our systemic issues work. We have asked the Policy & Systemic Issues team to take this into account in the continuous improvement of our systemics work.

Update 15 October, 2021

The TIO Board has approved new Terms of Reference to come into effect from 1 January 2022. This follows the TIO’s public consultation last year and targeted further consultation with industry and consumer groups. 

In implementing the new Terms of Reference by 1 January 2022, we are working on revising and introducing new guidance on certain areas. We are seeking views on the following:

  • Systemic Issue Guidance – this reflects the updated definitions and language in the new Terms of Reference and includes guidance on how the Ombudsman could exercise the new discretion to name members as part of our systemic issues work. 
  • Non-Financial Loss Guidance – this guidance expands on the high level areas outlined in the new Term of Reference that may be subject to non-financial loss compensation.
  • Survey on joining more than one member to a complaint – this is a survey to gather views about the best way to operationalise the new power in the Terms of Reference to join more than one member to a complaint. This goes beyond the reasonable assistance power in the Terms of Reference and we are interested to hear views on how this could be used to support efficient and effective complaint handling.

If you have feedback on the Systemic Issue Guideline or Non-Financial Loss Guideline, please write to us at by 22 October 2021.

Please provide responses to the survey on joining more than one member to a complaint by emailing by 2 November 2021.

We do not plan to publish responses and will consider feedback received in developing our approach to guidance on the three areas of the new Terms of Reference outlined above.

Update 30 August, 2021 

The revised Terms of Reference add clarity and implement some of the recommendations from the 2017 Independent Review of the TIO scheme. They also allow the TIO to meet the needs of consumers and members in an evolving telco landscape. 

In approving the revised Terms of Reference, the Board decided not to change the Small Business definition or the TIO’s device and equipment jurisdiction. The TIO will be speaking with stakeholders to advise on the process and timetable for further consideration of the issue of devices and equipment, updates to Complaint Handling Procedures and Systemic Issues Guidelines, and the development of guidance materials.

Read the modernised Terms of Reference

Read the Terms of Reference concordance table


Update 28 August, 2020

Submissions for this consultation have now closed. For further information, please contact us.


Update 29 July, 2020

We are modernising our Terms of Reference to ensure we continue to meet the needs of members and consumers in a post-2020 telecommunications landscape.

While the existing Terms of Reference have served the scheme well, they have not had a wholesale revision since 2014. Evolving technologies, changing consumer needs, and the growth of interconnected and smart devices are bringing significant transformation to the way the sector designs and offers products and services. We recognise the need to keep pace with this rapidly changing landscape and continue to meet community expectations.

The proposed Terms of Reference maintain their purpose of setting out the framework of our scheme and include proposed changes to jurisdiction and process.

Proposed TOR July 2020

Terms of reference discussion paper

Proposed TOR Concordance Table July 2020

Submissions received:

4. CALC, WEstJustice, FCA, FRLC
5. CALC, WEstJustice, FCA, FRLC Supplementary Submission to the TIO TOR review
6. Communications Alliance
7. Communications Alliance Letter to TIO re ToR December 2020
8. FCA (Aus)
9. IoTAA
10. Jane Edwards
11. Legal Aid NSW
12. Legal Aid QLD
13. NBN Co
14. Telstra
15. TPG Telecom
16. Vocus Group
17. Confidential submission
18. Confidential submission
19. Confidential submission