How to lodge a telecommunication ombudsman complaint (TIO)

Are you dealing with Telstra Complaints, Optus Complaints, or any other telco issues? You’re not alone! The big telcos like Telstra, Optus and Vodafone have tens of thousands of customers across Australia, so it’s not surprising that sometimes things go wrong. If you have a telco complaint you can’t resolve, you can make a telecommunications ombudsman complaint with the TIO by following these simple steps.

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What’s the issue?

Some telco complaints resolve easily, some don’t

Lots of telco complaints are about small but annoying things that go wrong: patchy internet service, a query about a bill, long wait times for in-person connection to services. Usually you can resolve these telco complaints quickly and easily with the telco themselves. For a guide on how to get a resolution of your telco complaint have a look at our handy article on telco complaints, or try using Ajust to resolve your complaint. Sometimes, a complaint with your telco provider can be harder to resolve. In those situations, the telco’s internal dispute resolution teams won’t always be able to sort things out, and that’s where the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) comes in. 

What do you need to know?

How to make a complaint to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman in Australia

If you’re at the point of needing to bring in the TIO that usually means that you haven’t been able to resolve your telco complaint directly with your telco provider. Some of the reasons we often see where complaints can’t be resolved are where:

  • the customer and the telco disagree about what’s happened;
  • a tricky legal issue pops up;
  • a third party is involved, like a scammer; or
  • the telco or the customer – and sometimes both – care more about being “right” than finding a resolution.

For these tougher situations the TIO can act as an “external dispute resolution” scheme. This means that if something goes wrong with the service your telco provides, you can make a complaint to the TIO if your telco doesn’t resolve your issue.

The TIO is an independent organisation who investigates and resolves complaints between customers and the telcos that provide services in Australia. They act as a fair and independent arbitrator to mediate between you and your telco. They will help you try to come to a fair outcome about your telco complaint, but if you and your provider can’t agree, they can make a binding decision that you and your telco will need to accept. For customers and small businesses the TIO is free to use, which is one of the reasons they can be so helpful to consumers who need help in their disputes with their telco provider.

Just a bit more

All telcos in Australia are required by law to be members of the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman. According to data released by the TIO, they receive tens of thousands of complaints every year. In just one quarter of 2022 they received 17,903 complaints - mostly about mobile phone services. Around 90% of those complaints are resolved within 10 business days, and only 2745 were referred to dispute resolution. So the TIO clearly has a good hit rate on resolving complaints for consumers and small businesses.

What can you do?

Escalate your complaint to the TIO

Before making a complaint to the TIO you need to try to resolve the complaint with your telco. If you’ve done that and haven’t gotten the result you want, the first step to making a complaint to the TIO is to fill out an online complaint form, send an email or give the TIO a ring. It’s important to keep in mind that the TIO can’t help with all issues, especially if your complaint is very old. In most cases you have to make a complaint to the TIO within two years of the date when you first discovered the issue, but in some cases this can be extended to six years.

When making your complaint you should make sure that you have all the relevant information available before you start the complaints process. This includes:

  • Your name and contact details (and the name and contact details of your representative if you have one)
  • Which telco and service your complaint is about
  • The details of the complaint and what happened when you complained to the telco
  • The outcome you want eg) do you want money off your bill? Or maybe you want your plan changed or to get out of your contract? 
  • Any supporting documents you have that show the problem eg) speed tests showing your internet connection issues, or emails with your telco about the issue.  

Once you submit your complaint to the TIO, the TIO will be in touch with you within 1-2 business days about your telco complaint. If your complaint is something that the TIO can help with, the TIO will send details of your complaint to the telco and ask them to contact you directly. This is called a referral and is part of a ‘refer back’ process. Generally, telcos have 10 business days to respond to your complaint and try to resolve it with you. There are different timeframes if the issue is urgent.

If your complaint is not resolved in the refer back process, then your complaint may continue through the TIO process. The TIO will ask you and the telco for more information about your complaint and will make a decision about what should happen next. 

Mistakes are always going to happen. If you have an issue with your telco you can try to resolve the complaint with them directly, or try using Ajust to resolve your complaint. But if you’re not happy with the telco’s response to your complaint, take comfort in knowing that there is a structured process to follow to make a complaint to the TIO and hopefully get that issue sorted ASAP.


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