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External dispute resolution (EDR)

 

An external dispute resolution office can provide an easier, relatively quick, independent and effective way of settling the dispute. In most cases the service is free to you; in some cases there is a lodgement fee. External dispute resolution has become popular with industry as it strives to self-regulate. External dispute resolution is available to you after you have tried to sort the matter out with the service provider concerned and you can't get anywhere.

 

Rules for external dispute resolution schemes

 

In 1997, the Federal Government issued a set of six benchmarks for external dispute resolution schemes. In 2014, these Benchmarks were reviewed and strongly affirmed by stakeholders, with some minor updating.

 

The Benchmarks for Industry-based Customer Dispute Resolution Schemes (CDR Benchmarks), relaunched in February 2015, address the following principles:

 

Accessibility

The office makes itself readily available to customers by promoting knowledge of its existence, being easy to use and having no cost barriers.

 

Independence

The decision-making process and administration of the scheme are independent from participating organisations.

 

Fairness
The procedures and decisions of the office are objective and unbiased, and are seen to be objective and unbiased.

 

Accountability
The office publicly accounts for its operations by publishing its determinations and information about complaints and highlighting any systemic industry problems.

 

Efficiency

The scheme publicly accounts for its operations by publishing its determinations and information about complaints and highlighting any systemic industry problems.

 

Effectiveness

The scheme operates efficiently by keeping track of complaints, ensuring complaints are dealt with by the appropriate process or forum and regularly reviewing its performance.

 

Some external dispute mechanisms operate according to these principles better than others.

For example, many offices allow you to lodge your complaint over the phone, some prefer it in writing, and some are required by legislation to receive it in writing.

Some offices publish regular public reports; others do not.

Some offices have consumer representatives on their boards/councils; others have industry representatives on them only.

Greater questioning of external dispute resolution mechanisms by customers (about how they operate) may help to improve compliance with the CDR Benchmarks.

 

Link to the CDR Benchmarks Principles and Purposes on the Treasury website

Link to the CDR Benchmarks Key Practices on the Treasury website

 

What powers do external dispute resolution schemes have to help you?

 

Be aware that EDR mechanisms do not all have the same powers.

 

Some of the offices you will find through this site were set up specifically to take customer/consumer complaints. Industry-based Ombudsman schemes (e.g. the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, the Financial Ombudsman Service, and the Energy and Water Ombudsman offices in Victoria, NSW, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia) are in this group.

 

Statutory Ombudsmen and Government Consumer Affairs/Fair Trading agencies have both complaints handling and regulatory roles.

 

Some Governments have also set up specific purpose complaints agencies for particular areas e.g. the Public Transport Ombudsman Victoria.

 

Yet other EDR mechanisms operate within industry associations, which as part of their role deal with complaints against their members, according to a code of conduct/practice/ethics.

 

Some can award you compensation (up to set $ limits).

 

Some can discipline (e.g. expel or de-register) members.

 

Some can order that a corrective action be taken.

 

Some can only negotiate on your behalf with the service provider you are in dispute with.

 

This does not mean the EDR mechanism cannot achieve a successful outcome for you, but the outcome may not be the one you were expecting when you first called.

 

It is a good idea to ring or email the EDR office first to see what powers it has and what can be done to help you. Then, if this is not enough, you may need to take action in the Small Claims/Fair Trading tribunal in your state or territory, or even resort to legal action.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

External dispute resolution is available to you after you have tried to sort the problem out with your service provider without success.

 

 

 

 

Contact: info@complaintline.com.au

 

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