Telecommunications Industry Self-regulation: Assessing the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) Scheme in Australia

International Association of IT Lawyers
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Law, Governance and World Order, 2012, 1, pp. 109 - 121
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In Australia, The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman ("TIO") is a private corporation enacted by parliament as the sole alternate dispute resolution mediator between carriage service providers ("CSPs") and consumers. The TIO is designed as an office of last resort, which relies on attracting, receiving, investigating and escalating complaints as its source of funding. Currently, the Telecommunications Act requires all CSPs in Australia to become members of the TIO scheme.A research project was undertaken to study the effectiveness of the TIO scheme in 2010 - 2011. It was a multi-phased project including literary research to identify problems and form research tasks, a large-scale survey to gain an insight into the policy and practice of the TIO from the perspective of CSPs; and an in-depth analysis of TIO cases to verify the research results. The TIO was invited at the commencement and on subsequent occasions to participate in this project but declined without providing specific reasons. The project results demonstrated universal and significant dissatisfaction with many material aspects of the TIO scheme. Further, the analysis of TIO key performance metrics uncovered patterns that provide some evidence of the issues raised by CSPs in their responses. A comprehensive legal analysis of the unique position of the TIO considered the sources of power the TIO relies upon and offers some insight into perhaps why the scheme operates in the manner it does.In conclusion, a set of recommendations is made to reform the scheme to provide fair, just and economical outcomes for CSPs and consumers.
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