The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) and Exetel have settled their long-running dispute over customer complaints handling, with the ombudsman to trial a new complaints process in response to Exetel's concerns.
Exetel launched a federal court case in October last year, after Exetel had held lengthy negotiations with the TIO over issues it had with the way the ombudsman had handled 114 customer complaints against the telco.
The TIO requires that the customer make an attempt to resolve its dispute with the telco before it brings about a complaint with the ombudsman. According to Exetel's CEO John Linton, a number of complaints brought against the company had never been seen by the telco before reaching the TIO. Linton said the TIO's handling of 80 per cent of complaints went against what was written in its constitution. Exetel had sought to retrieve the costs and compensation for dealing with the complaints.
In a joint statement, the TIO and Exetel announced that the matter had been settled with no payment made by the TIO. Instead, the TIO will trial a new process where if consumers are unable to reach their telco to complain, the TIO will provide them with a different number with the telco to try calling again. The TIO told ZDNet Australia that if the customer was unsuccessful in reaching this number or was unsatisfied with the telco's response, then the normal complaints process would resume.
"During the trial, complainants will continue to be referred to a senior point of contact with the member to have their complaints dealt with. Upon the council's rendering of its advice to the ombudsman the proceedings will be dismissed," TIO Simon Cohen said in a statement.
"The TIO is pleased that the matter has been resolved by way of an agreement reached through mediation," Cohen said. "We have resolved the proceedings and also created an opportunity to trial a process that has the potential to benefit consumers and service providers."
Linton told ZDNet Australia that he was unable to comment further, but said "if Exetel wasn't happy enough with the result of the mediation, we wouldn't have agreed with it".