Normally, a Chairman would be delighted to report on growth in an annual review. But, growth in complaints to the TIO is not something to celebrate.
In 2010-11, we received almost 200,000 new complaints from consumers. About 90 per cent of these are resolved as a "level one" complaint. Many of these complaints could have been resolved directly by the industry member if the customer had been able to contact the appropriate department of that member.
Sadly, an increasing number of customers are unable to make the appropriate connections with their provider, or their discussions with the provider are ineffective, and are contacting the TIO instead.
Industry needs to provide stronger leadership in both determining and eliminating the root causes of customer complaints as well as ensuring that customers can readily contact their complaint handling department to enable an expedient resolution. The TIO’s doors are open for industry members that would benefit from our advice and insights on how to improve service to customers.
The growth in complaints received has certainly provided challenges for our management and I would like to thank Ombudsman Simon Cohen and Deputy Ombudsman Diane Carmody for their strong leadership throughout the year in readily adapting to these conditions.
Our TIO Council plays a pivotal role in governing the TIO scheme and I am privileged to work with such a talented and committed team. I would like to thank outgoing Council members Jackie Giles and Leroy Parkinson for their service to Council and welcome John Wilkes, Dr Paul Harrison and Jonathan Matthews as new members. I also note the reappointment of Chris Dodds and Loretta Kreet to Council for a further term and very much appreciate their continued dedication to the Scheme.
I would especially like to thank Virginia Hickey, who completed her term as Chair of Council in 2010, for her leadership of the Council during a period of rapid change and for her sound advice and help to me as the incoming Chair.
Finally, I offer my thanks to the TIO Board. In addition to making sure the TIO is properly funded, their wisdom and encouragement in promoting a world class TIO scheme facilitates both a refreshing and enjoyable working environment.
Chairman of Council
Complaint handling activity increased in 2010-11, following a year of reduced complaint demand in 2009-10.
New complaints increased by 17.8 per cent, which was disappointing, but escalated complaints, those longer, more complex and costly complaints which are not resolved at an early stage by members, decreased by 14.8 per cent, which was very pleasing. The tools and experience of recent years, along with some fresh and innovative approaches to complaint handling, assisted the TIO to successfully cope with the overall increase.
The increased demand also placed additional stress on the core business IT platform. Short term solutions allowed the current system to meet demand but the need for the replacement of the ageing system became clearer. Considerable work has now been completed on this major project which will be implemented before the end of 2011-12.
An excellent financial result was achieved, balancing the needs of the TIO with the financial commitment required of the funding members. An operating surplus of $961,819 was achieved.
The transition from quarterly billing in advance to monthly billing in arrears was completed and is now in place for all members.
The total number of members increased from 1,162 at 30 June 2010 to 1,214 at 30 June 2011. One hundred new members joined the scheme and 48 members departed the scheme. I welcome all new members and wish departing members well for the future.
I would like to thank all the directors for the expertise and professionalism they bring to the strategic and financial management of the TIO, and the members of the TIO Council, headed by new Chairman Andrew Dyer, for their valuable work in developing policy and overseeing the operations of the company. I would particularly like to thank Virginia Hickey who departed as Chair of Council during the year.
The Ombudsman, Simon Cohen, has quickly established an increased stakeholder focus and improved the operational performance of the company. I would like to thank him, his executive team and all the TIO staff for their hard work throughout the year.
Chairman of the Board
The TIO Scheme is governed by a Board and a Council.
The Board has corporate governance responsibilities and is mainly made up of individuals nominated by telecommunications service providers, the members of the TIO Scheme. The Board is responsible for setting global limits for our funding and managing the business, affairs and property of TIO Limited.
The TIO Council is made up of an equal number of representatives of consumers and service providers, with an independent Chair. The TIO Council has oversight of the TIO Scheme. The Council’s responsibilities include maintaining the Ombudsman’s independence by acting as an intermediary between the Ombudsman and the Board, and monitoring and making recommendations about amendments to the TIO Constitution.
The Board met eight times in 2010-11, and the Council met six times. There was one joint meeting of Board and Council.
There were a number of changes to the Council throughout the year. Andrew Dyer succeeded Virginia Hickey as Chair in December 2010. Mr Dyer is a company director who serves on a number of boards, including utility companies and non-profit and cultural organisations. Dr Paul Harrison, a specialist in marketing and consumer behaviour, joined the Council on 1 July 2010 as a consumer representative. John Wilkes was appointed as the representative for Vodafone Hutchison Australia, replacing Jackie Giles. Jonathan Matthews from Intelligent IP Communications was elected unopposed to the Council, filling the vacancy created by the departure of Leroy Parkinson.
There were no changes to the membership of the Board.