Terms of Reference Changes
The Property Ombudsman’s Terms of Reference are changing from 1 June to help resolve complaints earlier, reduce waiting times and deal effectively with parties who do not engage with the resolution process. The changes are designed to facilitate the resolution of complaints at the earliest possible opportunity for the benefit of both consumers and member agents. Consumers will be provided with clearer information in relation to their complaints at an earlier stage and member agents can be assured that only appropriate complaints will be subject to a formal review process. The approach will help to manage expectations of both parties and will give credit to member agents who have already made reasonable goodwill offers, thereby saving the member agent time and cost.
The full document can be accessed HERE and a summary of the changes is below:
Reasonable offer made - We see some cases where agents make fair and reasonable goodwill offers to resolve the complaint during their complaint process which remain open for acceptance throughout our resolution and adjudication processes. However, there are instances where consumers reject these offers on the expectation they will receive a higher award following a formal review by a TPO adjudicator. At present, even after explaining the offer is reasonable, if consumers request a formal review they are entitled to one. The changes to paragraph 14b will allow our experienced adjudication and resolution staff to establish if our outcome would be equal to or less than the agent’s offer and, if it is, explain that the fairest outcome for all parties is for the offer to be accepted and close the case.
No detriment – Changes to paragraph 14a will mean if the complaint does not have reasonable chance of success or the complainant has not suffered (and is unlikely to suffer) financial loss or other detriment that is likely to result in an award, TPO may consider not to investigate.
Complainant engagement – In a very small number of cases, complainants can either fail to provide information we specifically request and/or miss deadlines despite being reminded. This frustrates investigations and hampers progress being made. Changes to paragraph 14c will allow an investigation to be discontinued should complainants not engage reasonably and appropriately with TPO in this regard.
Flexible resolution – Changes to paragraph 37 will allow TPO the flexibility to decide whether to employ other forms of resolution, such as conciliation, mediation or any other informal resolution to resolve cases. Where a settlement is agreed by both parties using any of these techniques, this will have the status of a final decision in the same way that is currently achieved through the formal review process.