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Complaints handling policy

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16 February 2018

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.

Complaints provide the agency with valuable information about our scheme and service delivery. Good administration involves continuous improvement through regular reviews incorporating positive and negative feedback.

Definitions

TermDefinition
Negative feedback

Negative information detailing dissatisfaction about the agency’s products, services, actions or staff that can be managed routinely. Negative feedback can be a suggestion or expression of dissatisfaction, and is not a formal Complaint.

Example 1: A client contacts the agency, they are unhappy because it is taking longer than usual to audit their application to create STCs, even though the agency is working well within the published/legislated time frames.

Complaint

A Complaint is an expression of dissatisfaction made to or about the Clean Energy Regulator, related to its products, services, actions or staff where a formal response or resolution is explicitly or implicitly expected or legally required and cannot be managed routinely.

Example 1: A client writes to the agency stating they wish to make a Complaint about the service provided to companies in Western Australia, stating that there has been a longstanding issue with the call centre only operating during Eastern Standard Time (EST) business hours. The Complaint is that the company was locked out of EERS without warning while entering data required for NGER compliance. When the agency was called to find out how long the outage would last, there was no staff to answer the call because it was made outside EST business hours.

Example 2: A client contacts the agency claiming that a requirement by the agency for them to disclose their gender and date of birth when registering for the Client Portal is a breach of privacy.

Systemic issueAn issue that may affect parties beyond those directly involved in the Complaint. It may have potential to affect the agency as a whole. For example, the problem may be a consequence of issues inherent in the agency’s business processes rather than due to a specific or isolated factor.

Purpose of this policy

The purpose of this policy is to outline the agency’s approach to handling Complaints. The policy and its associated processes have 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 feedback from our clients and stakeholders by actively providing transparent and accessible feedback management processes.

Scope of this policy

This policy applies to all Complaints.

This policy does not include situations where a client is seeking review of a statutory decision. In these situations the Internal Decision review process must be followed.

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 the Complaint Handling Policy and this process focuses on general dissatisfaction with the agency’s services.

Where a complainant raises an issue with the operation or interpretation 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 Complaints handling team to monitor the Complaint and the Department’s response.

Principles of our Complaints management

The agency’s Complaints handling process 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 inquiry.

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

Clients and stakeholders can easily access information about our Complaints 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 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 agency’s Complaints handling process is considered a core business activity, however, Complaints are managed outside of the scheme functions to maximise independence and objectivity.

Making a Complaint

How to make a Complaint

The preferred methods of making a Complaint are listed below:

Complaints may, however, be received by the agency through any number of channels. These may include:

  • the website
  • in person
  • from another agency or body
  • from the Minister’s Officer of Parliamentary Secretary’s Officer.

It is the responsibility of the receiving officer to assess whether the correspondence or interaction is a Complaint and refer the matter to the Complaints handling team in line with the Standard Operating Procedure.

Information required for a Complaint

To help the Clean Energy Regulator respond quickly and effectively to Complaints complainants should be asked to:

  • specifically address the matter to the Clean Energy Regulator
  • clearly articulate the issues that fall within the legislative responsibilities of the agency
  • provide as many specific details about the issue as possible, including any steps that have been taken to attempt to resolve the issue
  • provide any supporting evidence or relevant documentation
  • outline their desired outcome or resolution
  • respond to requests for information or clarification in a timely matter and treat Clean Energy Regulator staff with courtesy and respect.

The Complaints handling process

Most Complaints are managed within the Office of General Counsel, which is independent from the agency’s scheme delivery functions. Officers managing Complaints seek information from relevant business areas to form independent conclusions, highlight systemic issues and ensure prompt action.

The Clean Energy Regulator will endeavour to acknowledge all complaints within two business days and to provide a formal written response within 20 business days.

Every effort will be made to meet these timeframes, where it is practical to do so. However, if the matter is complex, it may take longer to resolve. In these instances, complainants will be informed about the delay.

Following up on a Complaint

The preferred method of providing additional information or making enquiries in relation to a Complaint is via email.

As a general rule, officers managing a Complaint will not accept unplanned calls from Complainants. Complainants may request an appointment to speak with the officer by calling 1300 553 542 or emailing cer-complaints@cleanenergyregulator.gov.au.

Complaints to the Minister or Chair

If a complaint has been made to the Minister for the Environment and Energy, the Minister’s office will coordinate a timeframe for a response which may differ from the timeframes indicated in this policy.

Similarly, if a Complaint is received by the Chair, the office of the Chair will liaise with the Office of General Counsel to coordinate a timeframe for a response which may also differ from the timeframes indicated in this policy.

External review options

If a complainant is unsatisfied with the handling of their Complaint, they may pursue the Complaint with an external body such as:

  • The Commonwealth Ombudsman who can investigate complaints about the administrative actions of Australian Government departments and agencies including the Clean Energy Regular. In most instances, the Ombudsman will not investigate complaints until the agency has been made aware of the complaint and given an opportunity to resolve the matter. The Commonwealth Ombudsman can be contacted on 1300 362 072 or via the Commonwealth Ombudsman website.
  • The Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC), who can review decisions related to breaches of privacy. OAIC can be contacted on 1300 363 992 or via the Australian Information Commissioner website.
  • The Australian Human Rights commissioner (AHRC), who can investigate complaints of discrimination and breaches of human rights. The AHRC can be contacted on 1300 656 419 or via the Australian Human Rights website.
  • Where a Complaint is under investigation by the Clean Energy Regulator is referred to an external body by the complainant, the agency may suspend its investigation pending the progress or outcome of the external investigation.

Unreasonable client demands/behaviours

There may be instances where the Clean Energy Regulator must deal with unreasonable demands or behaviours from clients. This may include:

  • where a complainant raises the same issues that have been investigated previously without presenting new evidence
  • where a complainant is abusive towards staff (e.g. swearing and threatening behaviours)
  • unreasonable persistence regarding outcomes
  • unreasonable demands relating to timeframes for resolutions
  • Complaints that are frivolous, vexatious, or not made in good faith.

In these instances, Complaints may not be acknowledged and the Accountable Authority may exercise their discretion to minimise or control its dealings with the complainant. The complainant will be given clear advice and reasons why.

Other references

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