Last week, the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, Simon Cohen, kindly hosted a number of WA consumer advocates at the 2013 TIO Consumer Roundtable. The TIO’s Roundtable is an annual nationwide event. The Ombudsman travels to all states and territories, meeting with a number of community groups to discuss a range of telco related issues.
The TIO invited several legal, financial and social advocates to discuss recurring consumer issues with telco providers and how the TIO could assist better. CCLSWA was one of the invitees.
The Ombudsman took advocates on a metaphorical journey, explaining how the TIO handles the complaints process. He also shared success stories and statistics, to show how effective the TIO’s dispute service can be.
The Ombudsman asked advocates to suggest how the TIO service could be improved and whether there were particular issues that deserved more attention.
Problem areas discussed at the table included:
· default listings on credit information files arising from mobile phone contracts;
· telco poviders’ reluctance to discuss consumers’ complaints without the TIO’s involvement; and
· the TIO’s public profile (or lack there of), with some advocates expressing a concern that many consumers are unaware of the TIO’s services.
The Ombudsman agreed to consider all the issued raised at the table and to consider implementing procedures to combat these issues.
The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman is a free national dispute resolution service for consumers who have complaints against telecommunication providers. It acts as an independent body assisting both the consumer and provider to resolve their dispute. Should the parties be unable to come to an agreement, the TIO can recommend a resolution for the parties to consider. And should the parties still be unable to agree on the recommended resolution, the TIO has the power to make a determination based on what it believes to be the appropriate resolution to the dispute.
Whilst a TIO determination does not have the same legal effect as a court judgment, it is often a good indication, and in some cases a warning, as to what conclusion a court of law will come to, should the dispute be put before it.