Conceptualising the Australian telecommunications industry self-regulation scheme in the context of Australian judicial system and administrative justice

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Journal Article
Australian Journal of Telecommunications and the Digital Economy, 2016, 4 (3), pp. 21 - 43
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The public ombudsman plays an irreplaceable role as an important redress mechanism for individual grievances and as a "watch dog" to administrative justice. Since the 1980s, private sector ombudsmen have emerged and proliferated. This rapid development has resulted in some significant controversies. Unfortunately, many of these controversies have not been sufficiently addressed to date. By analysing the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) as a case study, this article seeks to examine the nature of the private sector ombudsmen and its changing position in relation to administrative justice. Here, the key claim is that the TIO is substituting courts with respect to consumer matters arising from its service sector. Stemming from this claim, this article further argues that the current TIO scheme presents an inappropriate and unreliable situation where the private sector ombudsmen may provide differing rights and remedies from those available in the Courts. Furthermore, consistency in decision-making by private sector ombudsmen can be problematic, and fair procedure requirements remain untested by the courts. In order to resolve these issues, private sector ombudsmen, like the TIO, should be subject to a closer monitoring process. As a preliminary measure, an authoritative and standardised quality control assurance mechanism should be established to ensure that consumer complaints are effectively received and fairly handled.
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