Complaint handling processes to help your agency: Real estate bulletin issue 113 (May 2016)

This publication is for: 
Property industry

5 May 2013

How many complaints has your agency received this year? Are complaints being escalated to third parties?

The Department receives many complaints about issues which may have been resolved by agencies before they came to the Department.

Regardless of what the complaint is about, having an efficient complaint handling process may help resolve more common problems and reduce the need for concerns to go to Court or the Department, saving you time and money.

The Department’s publication, Complaints a guide for businesses, assists agents in developing a complaint handling policy and carrying out complaint handling procedures. While receiving a complaint might initially seem bad for business, it can be turned into a positive experience.

A complaint can present an agency with opportunities to identify and remedy problems, sometimes with its services and practices. Reviewing complaints may identify training needs or procedural practices where issues may need to be elevated to more senior staff for decision making.

An effective complaint handling policy is an essential business practice which can help an agency to not only meet its legal obligations but also to develop relationships with people dealing with the agency by building on their trust to remedy a situation, thus showing the person’s opinion or custom is valued.

Developing your own policy and procedures will help you and your staff to be confident and consistent when addressing complaints. It also provides you with an opportunity to demonstrate that you welcome feedback and you are looking to continuously improve operations.

People want their complaints to be easy to report, acknowledged and dealt with quickly, fairly and sensitively. Before developing complaint handling policy and procedures, you could consider:

  • Why your agency welcomes complaints and the benefits to staff, clients and the business.
  • How to make it easy for anyone to complain.
  • Who in the office has the authority to resolve a complaint and that staff know what to do.
  • What are reasonable timeframes for the differing types and stages of the complaint – i.e. acknowledgement, investigation, responses etc.
  • How to keep the person making the complaint updated.
  • Outlining what will happen if the complaint cannot be resolved.
  • Regular reviews of the policy and making changes as necessary.

An efficient complaints handling system can provide you with a better understanding of the needs of people your agency deals with and can be another way of attracting new business.

Whilst not all complaints can be resolved at agency level, the Department expects agencies to have a sound complaint handling practice in place and to make a genuine attempt to resolve any consumer complaints raised with the agency.

Updated Australian Consumer Law guides

There are six guides to the Australian Consumer Law (ACL), which have been developed by Australia's consumer protection agencies to help businesses understand their responsibilities under the law.

These guides have recently been updated to incorporate significant court outcomes regarding the ACL over the past five years.

These guides are not a substitute for the legislation, but they are an informative resource to assist businesses to operate within the law.

If you have specific questions that the guides do not answer, you may wish to seek independent legal advice.

Consumer Protection
Last updated 26 May 2016

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