Main Article Content
Telecommunications industry ombudsman, the TIO, public ombudsman, industry consumer dispute resolution
The public ombudsman plays an irreplaceable role as an important redress mechanism for individual grievance and as a “watch dog” to administrative justice. The emergence of private ombudsman institution in 1980s has brought some significant controversies. Despite the fact that many of the early controversies have not been sufficiently addressed, private ombudsman institution has proliferated in the recent years. In this context, this article examines the nature of private ombudsman institution and its changing position in administrative justice by using Australian telecommunications industry self-regulation agency, the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) as a case study. This article established a key claim that the TIO is substituting for courts with respect to consumer matters within its service sector. Stemming from this claim, this article further argued that the current TIO scheme presents a situation where sectorial ombudsman may provide different rights and remedies from those may available in courts; consistency in decision-making by private ombudsman can be problematic; and fair procedure requirements remain to be tested by the courts. In conclusion, this article suggested that private ombudsman institution, like the TIO, should subject to regular review, and as a starting point of this process, authoritative and standardised quality control assurance mechanisms should be established to ensure that complaints could be effectively received and handled.