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How telcos must handle complaints

There are rules and guidelines that telcos must follow when managing consumer complaints.

Understand the complaints rules

There are rules that you need to follow when dealing with complaints. These rules are set out in the Telecommunications (Consumer Complaints Handling) Industry Standard 2018 (the Standard).

The rules say that as a telco you must: 

  • try to fix any complaint when you first speak to a consumer
  • fix urgent complaints within 2 working days
  • have a written complaints-handling process
  • explain how you plan to fix problems within 15 working days
  • take all agreed-upon action within 10 working days
  • keep a record of all complaints
  • monitor complaints and identify emerging issues.

If you have more than 30,000 services in operation, you must also ensure you abide by the Telecommunications (Consumer Complaints) Record-Keeping Rules 2018. There are additional record keeping obligations you must meet.

What classifies as a complaint

A complaint is when a consumer tells you they are not satisfied with your products and services, or with how you handle complaints. In both cases, they expect you to respond and resolve their complaint.

If you’re unsure whether someone is making a complaint, you need to ask them.

You do not need to consider it a complaint if a consumer contacts you to ask about a service or report a fault.

However, if a consumer states that their contact is a complaint, you must treat it as such.

Consumer complaint scenarios

Scenario 1: Provider BlueTelco5 receives a phone call from a consumer who reports a service outage. When asked by BlueTelco5’s customer service representative if they were also making a complaint about this, the consumer advises that they are not.

This contact would not be a complaint.

Scenario 2: Provider BlueTelco5 receives a phone call from a consumer who reports a service outage. When asked by Provider BlueTelco5’s customer service representative if they were also making a complaint about this, the consumer advises that they would like to do so.

A complaint should be recorded.

Scenario 3: Provider BlueTelco5 receives a phone call from a consumer who appears to be distressed, as they fear their paper bill has not arrived yet and has been lost. The customer service officer does not clarify with the consumer if they wish to make a complaint. The customer service representative does not record the interaction as a complaint.

Based on the consumers’ distressed manner, the customer service officer should have clarified with the consumer whether they wanted to make a complaint.

Scenario 4: Provider BlueTelco5 receives a phone call from a consumer who appears to be distressed as they fear their paper bill has not arrived yet and has been lost. When asked by Provider BlueTelco5’s customer service representative if they were making a complaint, the consumer advises that they would like to do so. The customer service representative places the consumer on hold and discovers that the bill was only mailed out that morning due to a public holiday, and this is relayed to the consumer. The matter is then closed.

A complaint should be recorded.

Urgent complaints

A complaint is urgent if:

  • the consumer is in financial hardship according to your financial hardship policy
  • the consumer receives priority assistance
  • you have or will disconnect the service and have not followed the correct process.

You must resolve urgent complaints within 2 business days.

What to include in your complaints handling process

The Standard contains all the information you need to develop a complaints handling process. 

It gives you the minimum requirements to:

  • make it easy for a consumer to make a complaint
  • meet time frames to respond to and resolve complaints
  • make the process transparent for consumers.

You must help consumers formulate, make and progress a complaint, including if they:

  • have a disability
  • come from a non-English-speaking background 
  • are suffering from financial hardship.

You need to keep a record

You must keep systematic records of complaints from consumers.

This record must include:

  • the name and contact details of the consumer making the complaint (or their representative)
  • a unique reference number or a way to identify the individual complaint
  • details of the complaint and the issues raised
  • the resolution proposed by you or the consumer
  • the due date for the consumer to respond to the proposed resolution
  • the results of any investigation
  • the reasons for your proposed resolution
  • the consumer’s response to the proposed resolution, any reasons given by the consumer, if they have requested the proposed resolution in writing, and that this request has been made
  • the agreed resolution, including any commitments with the date advised to the consumer
  • that you have completed any required actions
  • copies of any correspondence sent by or to the consumer regarding the complaint.

Key time frames

The Standard contains all the actions and time frames you must include in your complaints process.

Action Time frame
Acknowledge you have received a complaint

Immediately, if the consumer complains in person or by phone

Within 2 working days, if the complaint is in writing (including email)

Resolve urgent complaints Within 2 working days
Resolve most non-urgent complaints Within 15 working days
Implement the resolution you agree Within 10 working days 

If you can’t meet a time frame, you must tell the consumer before it has passed, including:

  • the reason for the delay
  • when you expect to resolve the complaint 
  • what they can do if the delay is 10 working days or more.

Monitoring complaints

Telcos need to track complaints to identify emerging issues. At least every 3 months, you must formally classify and analyse complaints. You can do this more often if you choose.

This helps you:

  • identify and address recurring problems 
  • record progress in addressing these complaints.

If you do not follow the rules

We monitor the industry and investigate telcos that break the rules.

If this is the case, we may take enforcement action against you. This could result in a formal warning, direction to comply, an infringement notice, or court proceedings.

We publish our enforcement outcomes on our website.

 

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