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Complaints handling policy

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11 October 2017

Contents

Introduction

The Clean Energy Regulator Complaints Handling Policy draws on the Better practice guide to complaint handling developed by the Commonwealth Ombudsman, and the NSW Ombudsman’s Effective complaint handling guidelines.

Complaint handling is a necessary part of program and service delivery. Errors, misunderstandings, client dissatisfaction and unexpected problems occur in all administrative systems. Complaint handling can be effective in resolving a problem before it unnecessarily escalates, and in nurturing good relations between the agency and the public.

Complaints provide the agency with information about scheme and service delivery issues. Good administration involves continuous improvement through regular program review, and the lessons learnt from complaints can feed into this process.

Definitions

Term ​Definition
​Feedback​Positive or negative information about our services, performance or the way the Clean Energy Regulator does business. Feedback can be a compliment or suggestion, but is not a Complaint.
​Complaint

An expression of dissatisfaction made to the Clean Energy Regulator (CER) relating to an action, service or process undertaken by the CER 1, where the Complainant requests or reasonably expects a formal response or resolution. 

Note: A request for a reconsideration of a decision or escalation of an issue to a more senior person in the organisation will not generally be considered a complaint – see Scope of this Policy for more information.

​Complainant​A client, stakeholder or member of the public requesting or expecting a formal response to, or resolution of, a Complaint relating to an action or service of the Clean Energy Regulator or its staff.
​Compliment​An expression of praise, admiration or congratulations in relation to any aspect of the Clean Energy Regulator’s services, performance or means of doing business.

Purpose of this policy

The purpose of this policy is to outline the agency’s process for Complaints handling. The policy and its associated processes has been developed to complement existing client service processes, meet the expectations of clients, stakeholders and the Commonwealth Ombudsman, and align with the Government’s Regulator Performance Framework.

The policy supports a culture of openness to Complaints from our clients and stakeholders by actively providing transparent and accessible processes for handling their Complaints.

Scope of this policy

This policy applies to expressions of dissatisfaction relating to an action or service that meets the definition of Complaint. The policy does not apply to compliments, negative feedback that does not seek further action on the part of the agency, suggestions, requests for information or requests for a review of a statutory decision.

It is important to note the difference between dissatisfaction with the agency’s, service and dissatisfaction with the agency’s statutory decisions. The model described in this policy focuses on dissatisfaction with service. Dissatisfaction with statutory decisions is handled informally, by escalation within the agency, or formally, through the Internal Review​ process​ and court and tribunal processes.  Where escalation is necessary, this will generally be done through a warm transfer of the call or timely forwarding of correspondence to the relevant area/person.  It is the responsibility of business areas to develop protocols for escalation.  

Where a Complainant raises an issue with the operation of legislation, including the policy behind the legislation, consideration must be given to whether the matter is best handled by the Clean Energy Regulator or the Department of the Environment and Energy. ​Until a formal handover has been agreed and confirmed by the Department, this policy and its processes will apply. If a formal handover occurs, arrangements must be made for the Deregulation, Legislation and Governance Section to monitor the Complaint and the Department’s response. 

Complaints can be received by the Clean Energy Regulator by any method. It is anticipated that they will usually come via at least one of the following channels:

  • Phone call – received via the general enquiries phone number (1300 553 542) or any other phone number identified as being allocated within the agency.
  • Email – received via any group or individual employee email address.
  • Letter or fax – sent to individual staff members, or the agency in general.
  • Matters or issues referred to the CER by another body – when received in writing, these will generally be captured and communicated via Slipstream. 
  • Website – an online form capturing details of a complaint.
  • Conversation with an officer – generally in a formal setting (such as a meeting or conference), but may arise in informal settings.

This policy outlines the agency’s seven stages to effectively managing complaints- receive, acknowledge, plan, investigate, respond, follow up, and consider.

Principles of Complaint Handling

The Clean Energy Regulator’s Complaint Handling Policy is modelled on the principles of fairness, accessibility, responsiveness, efficiency, and integration with core business.

Fairness – Complainants must be treated fairly

All Complainants have a right to expect that their privacy will be respected and their Complaint will be treated confidentially. A Complainant is entitled to know how a Complaint will be handled and the outcome of the investigation.

Accessibility – the Complaint handling process should be accessible to all clients

Clients and stakeholders can easily access information about our Complaint Handling process and the types of complaints that we can address including clients with special needs i.e. those with a disability or who are from non-English speaking backgrounds.

Responsiveness and Efficiency – the Complaint handling process must be timely, cost effective and not place an unnecessary burden on the Complainant

All Complaints will be resolved within an agreed timeframe with the least possible impact on the resources of the Complainant, and the agency.

Integration – Complaint handling is integrated with core business activities

The Clean Energy Regulator’s Complaints Handling process is a core business activity.

Complaint Handling Model

Receive the complaint

The Complaint may come through any of a number of channels. If the matter fits the definition of a Complaint it will be referred to the responsible area within the agency.

Proceed  

Acknowledge all complaints quickly

All Complaints should be formally acknowledged within two business days of receipt by the agency.

Proceed  

Plan the investigation

If a Complaint cannot be resolved on receipt by the agency, the Complainant will be advised their Complaint will require investigation, and a short description of the proposed approach will be provided along with contact details for the purpose of tracking the handling of the Complaint. Information that is provided at this stage may include any or all of the following:

  • definition of what is to be investigated
  • list of the steps involved in investigating the Complaint and indication of whether further information is required, either from the Complainant or from another person or organisation
  • provision of an estimate of the time it will take for the next steps to occur
  • articulation of the remedy the complainant is seeking, and early advice as to whether the Complainant’s expectations can be met, and/or whether other possible remedies may be possible, and
  • annotation of any special considerations that apply e.g. if the Complainant has asked for their identity to be withheld from others or if there is sensitive or confidential information that needs to be safeguarded.
Proceed  

Investigate the complaint

The purpose of an investigation is:

  • to determine the facts and options for resolution
  • to decide whether the Complaint is justified
  • to resolve the Complaint by reaching a fair and independent view on the issues raised by a Complainant, and
  • to provide an appropriate remedy if the complaint is justified.

Complaints will generally be investigated confidentially. As a matter of procedural fairness, the Complainant will be given an opportunity to comment on adverse information before a Complaint is dismissed.

The administrative law requirements for the handling of an investigation are outlined in best-practice guides published by the Administrative Review Council. The following are requirements relevant to complaint investigation:

  • a finding on a disputed factual matter must be based on evidence that is relevant and logically capable of supporting the finding—not on guesswork, preconceptions, suspicion or questionable assumptions
  • a written record should be kept of evidence that is provided orally
  • a Complainant is not obliged to substantiate each fact or element in their Complaint, although it is reasonable for the investigator to ask them to assist the investigation by providing documents they have or explaining things they know
  • the rules of evidence that apply in court proceedings do not apply to administrative investigation, and an investigator can use reliable information obtained from any source
  • to afford natural justice, a Complainant should be given an opportunity to comment on contrary information or claims from another source before a decision is made to dismiss the Complaint.
Proceed  

Respond with a clear decision

When the investigation of a Complaint is completed the Complainant will be told the particulars of the investigation, including any findings or decision reached. It may not be possible in all cases to provide full details of the findings or actions taken as the result of the Complaint. In some cases, this will be due to privacy considerations. In other cases it may be because of operational requirements for example, if a Complaint demonstrated a system vulnerability, the actual remedy may not be able to be disclosed to the Complainant.

Proceed  

Follow up any customer service concerns

The Clean Energy Regulator will advise options for internal and external review if the Complainant remains dissatisfied with the agency’s response.

Contact details and an invitation to follow up will be provided when the Complainant is notified of the outcome of the investigation.

Proceed  

Consider any systemic issues

The agency will consider if there are any systemic issues that warrant attention.

Related policies and references

Agency policies

Other references

Notes​

1 Contractors engaged by the Clean Energy Regulator will also be subject to this policy. A contractor means an individual working for the CER who is:

  • engaged for a specific role/s requiring specialist skill sets to perform or develop particular functions or deliver specific outputs, and

  • is not engaged on an ongoing or non-ongoing basis as per the Public Service Act 1999.

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