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Mary Russell

Collaboration the key to resolving telco complaints, says new Assistant Ombudsman

Mary Russell is no stranger to resolving complaints. In her new role as the Assistant Ombudsman for Dispute Resolution at the TIO, she knows helping the consumer and the telco to work together is the best way to reach a resolution that everyone is happy with.

Mary is passionate about effective dispute resolution for telco problems because “telecommunications products and services are a central part of our lives in modern society,” she says.

“Our dependence on phone and internet services means any roadblocks consumers experience when accessing or resolving problems with their telco can be critical. It’s important that we do our best to resolve these problems quickly and fairly.”

Mary believes effective dispute resolution is achieved through the best possible process, and the shortest possible time, working collaboratively with consumers and providers. A result that both parties find acceptable is a good result.

But alongside good dispute resolution practices, she knows it’s important to ensure industry-wide problems are spotted early.

“Identifying and working with providers around key issues as they emerge, and taking a wider systemic view is important to prevent further problems and maintain community confidence in the telco sector. What appeals to me about the TIO is that the organisation’s vision extends past individual complaints and considers the broader industry problems.”

Mary’s professional journey to complaint handling began in the health industry as an occupational therapist, both in hospitals, private practice and at a university training healthcare professionals. She also participated in professional standards regulation for over 30 years as a decision maker, board member and chair.

More recently Mary worked for the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra), focussing on the management of complaints about health practitioner’s performance or conduct. She established a risk-based framework for assessing new complaints about health practitioners which enabled Ahpra to respond to complaints according to risk and supported improved experience for complainants and notifiers.

Mary’s experience in complaint handling provides the perfect backdrop to her new role at the TIO. “It’s really interesting to transfer that understanding of complaints, and to view them through the lens of a different industry. There’s a different set of responses we can use to address complaints compared to in my work in previous roles.”

The TIO welcomes Mary to the role of Assistant Ombudsman, Dispute Resolution, and looks forward to seeing what she has in store to improve dispute resolution practices for consumers and telcos.