Determinations

TDR Case Note T003469 (2009)

Issue

Customer service, GST Invoices.

Background

The customer’s original complaint arose from a technical problem in October 2008 with a service of the Scheme Member Provider (Provider), and for which the customer incurred a repair cost of $270. That issue was resolved, and the customer accepted the provider’s offer to reimburse the $270. However, the customer made a number of additional complaints of inadequate customer service relating to the actions of the provider and its individual staff, its complaint handling procedures, refusal to issue a GST invoice, as well as delay and frustration. The customer sought compensation for inconvenience, which she wanted paid to charity. She also wanted an apology for the provider’s comment that she was “holding it to ransom”, and she wanted the provider to report to TDR on how its customer service processes had been changed as a result of her complaints.

The provider submitted that by demanding significant sums in compensation in respect of the raft of on-going complaints, it considered that the customer was endeavouring to “hold it to ransom”. The provider also submitted that the customer’s complaints regarding service issues were largely frivolous and vexatious, and therefore beyond the scope of the scheme.

Adjudicator’s decision

The adjudicator found that since the customer had accepted the offer of reimbursement for the technical problem, the only unresolved issue related to the on-going dispute about customer service.

With regard to the claim for compensation, the adjudicator commented that the customer’s complaint was an attempt to change the provider’s entire customer service system, rather than to demonstrate a specific loss to that customer. The customer also sought general compensation for stress and inconvenience arising from inadequate customer service, rather than compensation for any quantifiable loss.

The adjudicator found that there was no evidence that the provider had acted in breach of general principles, or any specific service standard required within the Customer Complaints Code (the Code). The adjudicator noted that the customer’s complaint for compensation was excluded under s 30.9(d) of the Code, in terms of which the Scheme Agent is unable to consider claims for compensation that are based on “inconvenience and mental distress”. Therefore, even if there had been a breach of service standards, the adjudicator was precluded from awarding the compensation sought.

With regard to the other issues, the adjudicator considered that the provider ought to apologise to the customer for its comment that it was being “held it to ransom”. In regard to the customer’s complaint about refusal to issue a GST invoice, the adjudicator found that this complaint was a matter for the Inland Revenue Department and not within the scope of the TDR scheme. However, the adjudicator recommended that the provider supply the GST invoice on a without prejudice basis.

Final outcome

The adjudicator concluded that: (1) the complaint regarding the original technical issue was resolved between the parties; (2) there was no breach of the general principles or any specific service standard under the Code relating to the customer service for which the customer could or should be compensated and there were therefore no remedies awarded; and (3) other matters should be addressed by the provider as recommended but were not matters the adjudicator could address under the TDR process.