Complaints: how and where to make them | ACMA

Complaints: how and where to make them

Got a problem with your telco? If you’re experiencing problems with your telecommunications product or service, there are good ways (and not so good ways) to make a complaint.

Our tips and videos below can help you make and resolve a telecommunications complaint.

Making a telecommunications complaint


Watch our video for tips on how to get the best result when making a complaint.

When you can’t resolve your telecommunications complaint

Watch our video to find out what you need to know before you contact the TIO. 

Making a telecommunications complaint

How do I complain about my telecommunications service?

You should contact your telco provider in the first instance and tell them you wish to complain. You can complain to a telco even if you’re no longer a customer.

Before you call:

  • Have a copy of your bill handy—it will have the information you need, such as your account number and the type of service you have.
  • Be clear on your complaint—write down what the issue is, when you’ve had the problem and how long it’s been going on.
  • Think about the outcome you want—read more about your rights.

Calling your telco:

  • Keep calm!
  • Clearly communicate your issue—use the information you gathered before the call.
  • Listen politely to the solution being proposed and let your telco know if you’re happy with it.

If you’re having trouble resolving your complaint:

  • Keep trying—ask to speak to a supervisor.
  • Get a reference number—you may need it for future discussions.
  • Contact the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO)— watch our video and read our tips on what to do when you can’t resolve your complaint.

How does my telco handle complaints?

Your telco must have a complaint-handling process that is customer-focused, accessible and easy to use. A summary of the process must be made available to customers and the information should be clear.

If you don‘t have access to the internet, you can ask for a copy of the complaint-handling process, which must be made available to you free of charge.

Telcos must provide assistance to customers to formulate, lodge and progress a complaint, including customers with disabilities, those suffering hardship and those from non-English speaking backgrounds.

Your telco provider’s complaint-handling process needs to have been developed in-line with the Telecommunications (Consumer Complaints Handling) Industry Standard 2018.

Is it necessary for me to put my complaint in writing?

You can complain by letter, over the telephone, by fax, or online via a website or email. It doesn’t have to be written, and if your telco has retail operations, you can complain to a person in the store.

Can I be charged a fee for complaining?

You should not be charged for making a complaint to your telco, regardless of whether you are a current or past customer. The telco, can however, charge a low or local cost fee for calls to its complaints handling number. 

Can my service be disrupted if I complain?

Your telco is not allowed to cancel or suspend your telecommunications service because you complained, because the complaint is unresolved or because you have pursued external dispute resolution through the TIO.

Will my complaint be acknowledged?

Your telco must acknowledge your complaint:

  • immediately if you complained in person or by telephone
  • or within two working days of receiving your complaint if it was made via email, a website, sent by mail or received by a recorded telephone message.

Your telco doesn’t need to acknowledge your complaint in writing, but you must be assigned a unique reference number, or some other identifier, that will ensure your telco can easily identify your complaint and its subject matter.

How long will it take for my complaint to be resolved?

Where possible, your telco should seek to resolve your complaint on first contact. If this is not possible, they need to advise you about the proposed resolution of your complaint as soon as possible after completing the investigation.

Your telco needs to clearly specify the response times for individual steps in its complaint-handling process.

Urgent complaints should be resolved within two working days. These relate to customers in financial hardship or receiving priority assistance, where the complaint is about that issue or where a disconnection has occurred or is imminent, and the processes set out in the code for credit management have not been followed.

Most other complaints should be resolved within 15 working days.

If your telco does not believe a complaint can be resolved within these time frames, it must advise you, before the end of the relevant time period, of:

  • the reasons for the delay
  • the time frame for complaint resolution
  • your options for external dispute resolution if the delay is 10 working days or more.

Once you have accepted the resolution of your complaint, your telco needs to complete all the actions to deliver the resolution within 10 working days, unless otherwise agreed with you, or if they are waiting for you to complete a step first.

What can I do if I’m unhappy with the time frame proposed for resolution of my complaint?

If you’re unhappy with the time frames that apply to the management of your complaint or you seek to have your complaint treated urgently, you will need to tell your telco. Your telco must then tell you about its internal escalation processes for complaint management and the options for external dispute resolution, including the TIO.

How can I track the progress of my complaint?

Your telco must give you the means to track the progress of your complaint. This will usually involve a unique reference number, but with smaller service providers your name may be a sufficient identifier.

Can other people contact my telco provider on my behalf?

You can ask a friend, relative or other representative to deal with a telco on your behalf as an authorised representative or advocate.

You must clearly communicate to your authorised representative and telco what rights you are giving this person. Where possible, such appointments should be made in writing, stating the decisions your authorised representative is entitled to make on your behalf.

Alternatively, you can appoint an advocate. An advocate’s role is more limited—they can deal with the telco on your behalf, but they aren’t authorised to access or make changes to your account or service unless they’re also your authorised representative.

How can I be sure that my telco provider is learning from what happened to me?

Your telco is formally required to classify and analyse complaints every three months, to identify recurring problems and issues.

They also need to monitor complaints to identify emerging issues, address these as soon as is practicable and record progress against addressing these complaints.

When you can’t resolve your telecommunications complaint

What can I do if I don’t agree with my telco’s response?

A resolution cannot be imposed on you if you don’t agree with it, and your telco must have your agreement before any solution is implemented.

If you aren’t satisfied with the proposed resolution, you can ask for your complaint to be escalated and managed under your telco’s internal escalation process. You can also pursue your complaint further with the TIO. Your telco must tell you how to contact the TIO if you indicate dissatisfaction with the management or outcome of your complaint.

When should I go to the TIO?

If you remain dissatisfied after dealing with your telco, you can contact the TIO. The TIO is an office of last resort—to be involved once all other avenues for dispute resolution have been explored. The TIO provides independent, just, informal and speedy resolution of telephone complaints and disputes. It’s a free service to consumers.

Before you contact the TIO, make sure you have the facts:

  • Are you a residential consumer or small business?
  • Are you the account-holder? If not, do you have their approval to make a complaint?
  • Do you have the complaint reference number provided by your telco?
  • Do you have the details of your complaint on hand, including the name of your telco, your account number and the nature of your complaint?

Once you have this information, you’re ready to talk to the TIO about your complaint.

Contacting the TIO:

Contact the TIO or see the TIO website for more information on making a complaint:

Phone: 03 8600 8700
Freecall: 1800 062 058
TTY: 1800 675 692
Mail: Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman
PO Box 276
Collins Street West, Melbourne Vic 8007

Last updated: 23 July 2019