There may come a time when you have to make a formal complaint about something - a service, an employer, another person or an organisation, the police, public transport, a store, a bank or credit union.
There are a number of steps for you to follow in the process of lodging a formal complaint. We've provided some information below that will hopefully help you to work out what next steps you have to make and where to make the complaint.
The Australian Privacy Foundation website has a good overview of the complaint process.
How do I make a complaint?
There are several steps involved in making a formal complaint.
The first step is to address the complaint with the organisation that's causing the problem. Your complaint should be made in writing and should include as much information about the situation as you can supply, but in some situations, a simple telephone call may be all that's needed to resolve your complaint.
Complaint-handling bodies such as the Victorian Ombudsman's office will generally not consider a complaint unless you've already raised your complaint with the organisation that you're complaining about. That's partly because complaint handling bodies are under-resourced and have to assign priorities to the complaints that they receive. But it's also because organisations should have the problem brought to their attention by the people who are upset about it, and should have the opportunity to address the problem without any third parties getting involved.
If you aren't satisfied with the response you receive from that organisation, then it's time to seek out a complaint handling body that deals with that particular kind of problem.
Finding the right complaint handling body
So you've tried communicating directly with the organisation but they've just had you running around in circles. It's time to escalate the complaint with an official complaint handling body.
The Victorian Ombudsman's Office is a great place to start. If they can't help you directly with your complaint, they should be able to point you towards the most appropriate complaint-handling body.
Here are links to some organisations that handle specific kinds of complaints:
- Financial Ombudsman Service (includes banking, credit unions and insurance)
- Private Health Insurance Ombudsman
- Superannuation Complaints Tribunal
- Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman
- Australian Direct Marketing Association
- The Commonwealth Ombudsman
- Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
- Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission
- Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission
The complaints procedure may seem time-consuming and a little confusing at first, but if you do your homework, document your complaint and approach people for help, it will become much easier.
It's important that you keep a file of all correspondence between yourself and the organisation you have a complaint with. Note each time you make or receive a phone call and what was said. Also keep record of all emails and letters sent and received.
If you feel strongly enough about your complaint to pursue it to the next level, then go for it. In the long run, the outcome of your complaint may mean that there will be better service from that organisation in the future for everyone.
The Ombudsman Victoria
The Victorian Ombudsman's office offers a free, independent and impartial service to help resolve complaints about another organisation.
Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV)
The official body that looks after all Victorian consumers and makes sure that their rights are protected. If you have a consumer-related complaint, the CAV is a great place to start.
Provides a step-by-step guide to making a complaint about financial, insurance, superannuation, investment or banking product or advice.
Australian Privacy Foundation
An excellent source of information detailing the different complaint handling bodies in Victoria and Australia-wide.