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Small business consumers

The TIO handles complaints from small businesses on the basis that these consumers, like residential consumers, are less likely to have the resources to pursue a grievance with their service provider through the formal legal system.

New complaints from small businesses increased 18.3 per cent in 2011-12 (27,008 new complaints compared to 22,836 in 2010-11). 

During 2011-12, we researched small business complaints, and consulted small business experts and other Ombudsman schemes to design a more flexible approach to defining small businesses.

Our new approach means we will continue to assist small businesses with an annual turnover of less than $3 million and up to 20 employees (or up to 100 staff in the case of seasonal operations or manufacturing businesses).

Even where these criteria might not be met, we will consider other aspects such as the issues in dispute, the nature of the business (for example, whether it is not for profit or it operates from a home), and whether the business is independently owned and funded by a small number of individuals who make most of the important business decisions.

In the past, the TIO would also take into account the amount in dispute and the business' yearly expenditure on telecommunications. These criteria have now been removed.

As well as these more flexible criteria, small businesses will benefit from changes made to the TIO Constitution that increase our powers to make binding directions and recommendations, which came into effect on 1 July 2012. The TIO can now make determinations in disputes up to $50,000 and recommendations up to $100,000. Read more about changes to the TIO Constitution.

Justin’s complaint

Justin's complaint

Justin, a small business owner, called us about a connection delay that he claimed was causing him financial loss.

Justin had contacted his provider to relocate his landline because he was moving his office to new premises. Because it would be located in a different exchange, his provider advised he would need to change his telephone number and offered to redirect calls from the original number to the new one, which Justin accepted.

Both parties agreed on a connection date and Justin’s provider advised that it would disconnect the number at his old premises on the same day.

After that, Justin received advice from a tradesman that once a number is disconnected, a redirection is not possible. Justin contacted his provider, which confirmed this would be the case and assured Justin that they had cancelled the disconnection.

However, once the business relocated, Justin began receiving calls for an unknown person. He realised that his service had been disconnected and the redirection was not working correctly.

Justin told us that it took a further three weeks for the landline to be connected and the redirection to work correctly. This, he told us, led him to lose money because he relied on calls from phone directories for new business. Justin told us that to mitigate his loss, he had to use his mobile more than usual and had his business 1300 number diverted to his mobile at considerable cost.

Justin submitted a compensation claim to his provider for $8,500 in lost income. In response, the provider considered the claim was not sufficiently substantiated and offered Justin three options: he could provide evidence that would support his claim; accept whatever compensation he would be entitled to under the Customer Service Guarantee Standard (CSG); or accept a $5,000 payment in lieu of either .

As Justin could not support his compensation claim, and the $5,000 that the provider offered was well above the compensation he would be entitled to under the CSG standard, he accepted the payment and the complaint was closed.

Justin’s complaint

Justin's complaint

Justin, a small business owner, called us about a connection delay that he claimed was causing him financial loss.

Justin had contacted his provider to relocate his landline because he was moving his office to new premises. Because it would be located in a different exchange, his provider advised he would need to change his telephone number and offered to redirect calls from the original number to the new one, which Justin accepted.

Both parties agreed on a connection date and Justin’s provider advised that it would disconnect the number at his old premises on the same day.

After that, Justin received advice from a tradesman that once a number is disconnected, a redirection is not possible. Justin contacted his provider, which confirmed this would be the case and assured Justin that they had cancelled the disconnection.

However, once the business relocated, Justin began receiving calls for an unknown person. He realised that his service had been disconnected and the redirection was not working correctly.

Justin told us that it took a further three weeks for the landline to be connected and the redirection to work correctly. This, he told us, led him to lose money because he relied on calls from phone directories for new business. Justin told us that to mitigate his loss, he had to use his mobile more than usual and had his business 1300 number diverted to his mobile at considerable cost.

Justin submitted a compensation claim to his provider for $8,500 in lost income. In response, the provider considered the claim was not sufficiently substantiated and offered Justin three options: he could provide evidence that would support his claim; accept whatever compensation he would be entitled to under the Customer Service Guarantee Standard (CSG); or accept a $5,000 payment in lieu of either .

As Justin could not support his compensation claim, and the $5,000 that the provider offered was well above the compensation he would be entitled to under the CSG standard, he accepted the payment and the complaint was closed.