Chapter 8 of the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code C628:2105 (TCP Code) sets out what you, as a supplier, must do in relation to the handling and resolution of complaints about your products and services.
How is a complaint defined?
The first thing you need to be clear on, is what is meant by ‘complaint’?
The TCP Code defines a complaint as:
… an expression of dissatisfaction made to a supplier in relation to its telco products and services, or the complaint-handling process itself, where a response or resolution is expected by the customer.
It also states that a call to a provider to request a service, information, support or report a fault is not necessarily a complaint. However, if the customer tells you that they want their call treated as a complaint, then you must treat it as one, regardless of the reason for the call.
If you’re unsure whether your customer is making a complaint, you need to ask them, and rely on their response.
Why do I need a complaints-handling process?
Under the TCP Code, suppliers are required to have a complaints-handling process that is customer-focused, accessible and easy-to-use—it’s also just good business. Customers who can contact your business easily and have their complaint resolved swiftly are more likely to remain as customers and recommend your services.
What should my complaints-handling process cover?
Key things your process must do are:
- Clearly state that consumers and former customers have a right to make a complaint.
- Tell customers how, when and where they can complain, what they can make a complaint about, and how to track its progress.
- Provide a free, local or low-cost contact number for customers to call you on. While it’s great to use additional methods of access like social media and online forms, you cannot do away with telephone contact altogether.
- Clearly set out the response times for the individual steps in the management of complaints.
- Be free of charge, except in certain specified circumstances—check the TCP Code for what these are.
Receiving and acknowledging complaints
A customer may make their complaint via letter, telephone, fax, online, email or in person if you have a retail outlet. If you receive a complaint, you must:
- acknowledge it immediately if the complaint is made in person or by telephone; or within two working days of receiving it, if the complaint is in writing
- assign a unique reference number, or some other identifier, that will ensure easy identification of the complaint.
You also need to provide assistance to customers to help make, lodge and progress a complaint, including customers with disabilities, customers suffering from hardship and those from non-English-speaking backgrounds.
The TCP Code also sets out time frames for resolving complaints. These should be stated in your complaint-handling process so your customers have a clear idea of what they can expect.
- Resolve a complaint on first contact where possible. If you can’t manage that, you need to advise your customer of the proposed resolution ASAP after completing your investigation.
- Resolve urgent complaints within two working days. An urgent complaint is a complaint:
- made by customers in financial hardship or who receive Priority Assistance
- where a disconnection has occurred or is imminent, and the processes set out in the code for disconnection have not been followed.
- Resolve most other complaints within 15 working days.
If a customer is unhappy with the time frames for their complaint or are seeking to have their complaint treated as urgent, you need to tell them about your internal escalation processes for complaints and the options for external dispute resolution.
Implementing a resolution
Before you go ahead with any solution, your customer has to agree to it—you cannot force a resolution on a customer if they don’t agree.
Once your customer has agreed to the resolution, you need to deliver it within 10 working days, unless otherwise agreed with the customer, or if you are waiting for them to complete a step first.
You are also not allowed to cancel or suspend their service because they made a complaint, or the complaint is unable to be resolved, or if your customer has pursued external dispute resolution through the TIO.
What happens if I can’t meet the specified time frames?
If you don’t think you can resolve a complaint within the time frames, you must advise your customer, before the end of the relevant time period about:
- the reasons for the delay
- the time frame for complaint resolution
- their options for external dispute resolution if the delay is 10 working days or more.
What happens if I can’t resolve the complaint?
If your customer doesn’t agree to the proposed resolution, or is unhappy with the outcome of their complaint, you need to tell them how to contact the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.
Is there anything else I need to do?
Yes—the TCP Code also requires you to formally classify and analyse complaints at least every three months to identify recurring problems and issues—although you can do this more frequently if you choose. You need to monitor complaints to identify emerging issues and address these as soon as is practicable and record progress against addressing these complaints. Doing this should help you reduce problems and improve your customer service, which is a good thing for your business.
Want more information?
As well as working with industry, we also provide resources to consumers on complaints-handling processes. To view the full list of FAQs for consumers, see our Making a telecommunications complaint webpage.
This information is intended as a guideline only and should not be relied upon as an exhaustive list of a supplier’s complaints-handling obligations. Check the TCP Code to ensure that you are aware of, and compliant with, all your complaints-handling obligations.