About the TCO Tolling Customer Ombudsman (TCO)
The TCO Tolling Customer Ombudsman (TCO) provides a free and independent alternative dispute resolution process for customers of E-Way, Linkt NSW, Linkt QLD, Linkt VIC and M5 South-West Motorway, which fund the TCO services under contract. A customer includes any user of a toll road.
The TCO scheme has been in operation as a free and alternative dispute resolution process, funded by tolling operators, for over a decade. The scheme operates in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.
EastLink / ConnectEast has recently reviewed its approach to its complaints handling process and withdrawn from the TCO Tolling Customer Ombudsman scheme, effective as at 1 July 2019.
From 1 July 2019, new complaints for EastLink cannot be handled by the TCO Tolling Customer Ombudsman, but may be referred to the EastLink Customer Advocate.
Details can be found at https://www.eastlink.com.au/enquiries/complaints or https://www.eastlink.com.au/enquiries/customeradvocate.
The TCO decisions are binding on tolling operators
The TCO has the power to make recommendations and decisions regarding a customer’s enquiry or complaint that falls within its jurisdiction under its contract with the tolling operators. The tolling operators covered by the scheme have agreed that TCO decisions are binding on them. The TCO will refer matters outside of its jurisdiction to a tolling operator for consideration but will advise the customer on the limitation of its powers in respect to making recommendations or decisions.
The TCO decisions are not binding on customers
There is no obligation on a customer to participate in the TCO scheme. Importantly, customers still maintain their rights. If they are dissatisfied with a TCO’s decision they are not bound to accept it and may pursue other avenues of complaint or dispute resolution open to them.
The TCO requires that any enquiry or complaint should initially be resolved promptly and fairly, wherever possible, between the tolling operator and its customer, without referral to the TCO. The TCO, when a matter is not so resolved, will provide every opportunity in processing the matter to enable the parties to settle their issues without a TCO decision.
The TCO, in the event a matter is not resolved, shall make a decision on the material provided by the parties and inform the parties expeditiously.
The Tolling Customer Ombudsman and Tolling Operators
The TCO expects that tolling operators must have a high standard, responsive customer relations or complaints resolution service, committed to early resolution of enquires and complaints.
The TCO requires tolling operators to produce and provide written material together with information on their website for customers and road users about the existence and operation of the TCO. Tolling operators must clearly and immediately inform persons dissatisfied with the response to an enquiry or complaint of the existence and means of contacting the TCO.
The TCO’s approach
The TCO does not advocate for either party in the resolution of enquiries or complaints. Its obligation is to act fairly and impartially with both the customer and the relevant tolling operator.
After receiving an enquiry or complaint, the TCO will:
- review details of the enquiry or complaint;
- refer the enquiry or complaint to the relevant tolling operator for investigation and response;
- request and examine appropriate records as authorised by the complainant from the relevant tolling operator;
- facilitate discussions between the complainant and the tolling operator;
- propose mediation or conciliation, if appropriate;
- make a decision or recommendation; and
- issue a formal decision or “Determination”.
There is no appeal from a TCO decision but the complainant is not prevented from exercising his/her legal rights in any way.