Utility bills and services that don’t add up

telephone operatorHaving problems with phone and internet services? 
Welcome to Australia, famous for our super fast internet and equally efficient phone service. But joking aside, the phone and internet are critical for many of us but are often the cause of much complaint and anger. If you have made a complaint to your service provider and ‘ain’t getting no satisfaction’ it may be time for you to contact the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO).
Now an ombudsman like the TIO is simply an impartial organisation that works towards getting whatever dispute you have with your service provider settled. They don’t take sides and they are usually easy to deal with and pretty non-bureaucratic. And the best part is they’re FREE for residential consumers and small businesses.
Remember that if you have a problem with your telephone or internet service provider you should always talk to them first. Sure you may have to put up with being placed on hold and force fed elevator music for 30 minutes but you have to give them a chance to solve the problem, when they finally speak to you.

Here’s a checklist to decide whether it’s time to get the TIO involved:

* Is your complaint about your landline telephone, mobile or internet service, damage to your property or telecommunications equipment?

* Have you already tried to contact your service provider to solve your complaint with them?

* Are you the account holder or have you been authorised to deal with this matter?

* Is your complaint less than two years old? (You may also be able to complain if your complaint is between two and six years old, and you have a good reason for not making it before.)

What problems and concerns can the TIO take a look at?
Here’s a list of the matters the TIO can handle for you:

♦ Landline, mobile and internet services, including:
♦ Your contract
♦ Connecting a new service
♦ Transferring a service
♦ SIM unlocking fees
♦ Faults, dropouts and poor coverage
♦ Billing mistakes and concerns related to your bill
♦ Billing and supply of mobile premium services
♦ Debt collection relating to a phone or internet service you have
♦ Service, or lack of it, provided over the National Broadband Network (NBN)

The TIO can also look into:
◊ Faulty equipment supplied as part of a service
 Faults on someone else’s service
◊ Phone cards
◊ Interference with your privacy by a service provider or its representative
◊ White Pages listings
◊ Directory assistance
◊ Operator services, but not 000
 Carriers accessing or using your land, either under their statutory powers or under a contract with you.
◊ Missed appointments from technicians
◊ Safety issues about telecommunications services
◊ Mass service disruptions
◊ Public mobile radio network
◊ Internet Pay TV
◊ Some compensation claims for loss of profits for businesses
◊ Some damage to property or telecommunications infrastructure issues
◊ Some issues relating to goods or services that are bundled or sold with a telecommunications service
◊ Some payphone issues

◊ Some unwelcome or life threatening communications issues
◊ Some spam and telemarketing issues
◊ Some payphone issues

◊ Some unwelcome or life threatening communications issues

What they don’t look at

The location, relocation or number of payphones in your area

⊗ The rates a service provider charges for services

⊗ Services a service provider does or doesn’t offer

⊗ The content of services including smartphone applications, premium services, all internet sites and TV

⊗ Technical problems with TV

⊗ Website domain names

⊗ Anti-competitive business practices

⊗ Compensation for time spent resolving a complaint

⊗ Complaints about 000

⊗ Complaints about the “Do Not Call” Register

⊗ Complaints from contractors, unless they have exclusive rights to the land, for example building a house, major renovation

⊗ Confirming if a law enforcement organisation is intercepting calls

⊗ Service providers monitoring calls for training purposes, recording verbal contracts, as part of network maintenance, or to protect a network from improper use

⊗ Telemarketing voice calls or faxes except where the call is made by a service provider or is repeated harassment

⊗ Business directories like the yellow pages

⊗ Spam from a third party – not your service provider

⊗ ADSL internet not being available to you because there is no infrastructure

⊗ NBN services not being available to you because there is no infrastructure

Now let’s walk through the process the TIO follows when helping unhappy consumers

Referral

The TIO refers your complaint to the service provider (eg Optus, Telstra) to give them another chance to fix it together.

Conciliation

The TIO will then talk with you and the service provider to help you reach an agreement. For more information, read their factsheet on conciliation.

Investigation

If you cannot reach an agreement, the TIO may investigate the complaint and ask you for evidence to support your claims.

Decision

If they are are not satisfied the matter has been resolved, the Ombudsman can decide how the complaint will be solved. Decisions by the Ombudsman are binding on service providers.

Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman Contact:

You can phone them on 1800 062 058  from 9am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday
Calls are free from landlines, but standard rates apply for calls from mobiles. (If you call from a mobile you can ask them to call you back.)
Or you can use their online complaint form

Or do it the old fashioned way and write to them at PO Box 276, Collins Street West, VIC 8007

worlds fair- electricityProblems with your gas and electricity providers?

Who to contact if you have a complaint

Your energy retailer is the business that bills you for your electricity or gas. You can usually choose your energy retailer. Your retailer’s contact details are on your energy bill.
Contact your energy retailer if:

♦ You think your bill is wrong

♦ You are having trouble paying your bill

♦ Your energy was disconnected and you think it was a mistake

♦ You signed up to a new offer and no one told you that you had 10 business days to change your mind

♦ You want to complain about their marketing or sales people.

Your energy distributor is the business that operates the gas and electricity networks, including the electricity poles and wires and gas pipelines. They also read your energy meter. There is only one distributor in your area—you cannot choose your distributor. Your distributor’s contact details are on your energy bill, usually under ‘faults and emergencies’.
Contact your distributor if:

♦ You have a problem with your meter

♦ Your electricity or gas stops working

♦ There is a blackout or the supply is bad, for example, your lights go dim a lot

♦ There is a fault or emergency, for example, an electricity pole is down.

Steps to follow to make your complaint

Step 1: Contact your retailer or distributor

Contact your retailer or distributor as quickly as possible to explain the problem and the outcome you want.

• Be clear, persistent, calm and polite.

• Keep a note of the phone call, including the date and name of the person you spoke to.

• If the person you spoke to can’t help you, go to Step 2.

Step 2: Ask to speak to a supervisor or senior manager

If the problem has not been resolved in Step 1:

• Ask to speak with a senior officer or manager.

• Discuss what options are available.

• Write down the name of the person you spoke to and what you discussed and agreed.

• You may want to put your complaint in writing if it is still unresolved.

When you put your complaint in writing make sure to address it to the company’s head office
and let them know your complaint and the outcome you require. Make sure you ask for a response within 2 weeks. Include copies of any supporting information you have to prove your case (for example, your gas or electricity bill). Keep a copy of your letter or email.

Step 3: Contact the Energy Ombudsman

If your complaint is still not resolved, you can contact the energy ombudsman in your state or territory.
Ombudsmen offer a free and independent dispute resolution service.
Ombudsmen can investigate complaints about:

♦ Disputed accounts and high bills

♦ Debts and overdue amounts

♦ Disconnection of supply

♦ Reliability and quality of supply

♦ Connection issues

♦ Poor customer service

Energy Ombudsman Contacts:
Queensland
Energy and Water Ombudsman Queensland
Telephone: 1800 662 837
Website: www.ewoq.com.au
New South Wales
Energy & Water Ombudsman NSW
Telephone: 1800 246 545
Website: www.ewon.com.au
Australian Capital Territory
ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal
Telephone: 02 6207 1740
Website: www.acat.act.gov.au
Victoria
Energy and Water Ombudsman (Victoria)
Telephone: 1800 500 509
Website: www.ewov.com.au
South Australia
Energy Industry Ombudsman South Australia
Telephone: 1800 665 565
Website: www.ewosa.com.au
Tasmania
Energy Ombudsman Tasmania
Telephone: 1800 001 170
Website: www.energyombudsman.tas.gov.au