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Message from the Ombudsman

Here we are at the end of 2021, and what a year it’s been.

Phone and internet complaints are down, which we think is a positive signal for consumers and telcos. And we have lived through another year of the pandemic and its far-reaching impacts.

For our Victorian-based teams, the personal and the professional continued to collide as the pandemic extended our time of working from home. Our West Australian-based teams had the opportunity to settle in and establish our Perth presence, seeking to expand our operating hours and make deeper connections with the community in the West.

Our focus this year was, and continues to be, providing fair, independent, and accessible dispute resolution services for consumers and telcos. We did this and did it well, even though it was a challenging year for many of us.

We made progress on our strategic goals and have had small wins that are elevating us towards being more effective in what we do and how we do it.

With the continuing impact of the pandemic, we put significant emphasis on looking after our people and ensuring their safety. To this end the theme of this year’s Annual Report was ‘People First’ - a celebration and recognition of the service we provide, by people for people.

The work we have done this year in human centred design places people at the core of our big change initiatives. We’ve continued our business transformation program, Project Echo, and made changes to make our service more accessible.

The TIO is committed to creating a great consumer and member experience, and it is through working with the telcos that we were able to improve the telecommunications sector. We published three systemic investigation reports in 2021, on financial hardship, fraud and poor telco sales practices. Each report offered recommendations and tips for both consumers and telcos.

Through our submissions we continued to use our data and insights to influence policy in the areas such as regional telecommunications services, consumer vulnerability, industry codes on customer authentication, and digital platforms services.

And finally, we will launch our revised Terms of Reference (ToR) on 1 January 2022, which will bring much needed clarity and simplicity to the complaints we can handle. The new ToR will allow us to make binding decisions up to the value of $100,000, give us the ability to award non-financial loss compensation for any complaint, and strengthen our systemic issue capabilities.

We’ve done a lot in the last year, but of course there is always more to do.

It is with mixed emotions that I acknowledge this will be my last Christmas at the TIO. As you may be aware, I have advised the TIO Board and the Senior Leadership Team of my resignation, effective from March 2022 so I can return to my home in New Zealand and be with my family.

The Board has started its recruitment process with the aim of appointing the new Ombudsman role in the first quarter of 2022. Making this decision was not easy. But my successor will be the lucky inheritor of a great team of people who will simply get on with the work that is ahead and continue to achieve our goals.

Seasons greetings and happy new year to you all.

Judi Jones, Ombudsman