When is customer feedback a complaint?

With customer surveys by businesses now expected, when is a survey really just an exercise in obtaining a net promoter score rather than obtaining helpful customer feedback? And is solicited customer feedback a complaint?

Comments made by a customer about a firm in a survey where a response is not expected, are not complaints.

But if a consumer clearly requests a response or expresses dissatisfaction in a way that implies the consumer reasonably expects the firm to respond and/or take specific action then the response is a reportable complaint and not just ‘feedback’, an ‘inquiry’, or a ‘comment’.

Is a social media critical discussion about a business a complaint?

Why is the definition of “complaint” important?

ASIC Regulatory Guide 271 requires Australian financial services and credit licensees to report their complaints data to ASIC every 6 months, with the first report for January-June 2023 being due by 31 August 2023.

The formal definition of ‘complaint’ is:

“An expression of dissatisfaction made to or about an organization, related to its products, services, staff or the handling of a complaint, where a response or resolution is explicitly or implicitly expected or legally required.”

ASIC interprets the words ‘or about an organization’ in the definition to cover expressions of dissatisfaction made on social media posts on a social media channel or account owned or controlled by the financial firm that is the subject of the post, where the author is both identifiable and contactable.

Even though most businesses monitor social media for criticisms, ASIC does not expect financial firms to seek to identify complaints made on third-party social media accounts or channels.

Under ASIC Regulatory Guide 271, the following expressions of dissatisfaction are complaints:
• a query about unauthorised fees or incorrect interest calculation;
• an objection to a proposed decision about how and to whom to pay a superannuation death benefit distribution;
• complaints about a matter that is the subject of an existing remediation program or about the remediation program itself (e.g. delays, lack of communication);
• complaints about the handling of an insurance claim (e.g. excessive delays or unreasonable information requests).

A complaint is also a reportable complaint even if the business regards it as having no merit or is resolved without any admission of error.

ASIC does not consider the following to be ‘complaints’:
(a) employment-related complaints raised by financial firm staff;
(b) reports intended solely to bring a matter to a financial firm’s attention—for example, that an automatic teller machine (ATM) is damaged;
(c) hardship notices or requests to postpone enforcement proceedings, unless the customer raises issues that meet the definition of complaint;
(d) reports of unauthorised transactions under the ePayments Code and disputed transactions under a chargeback process. However, ASIC considers that a complaint has been made if the consumer raises separate issues related to the transaction that meet the definition of a complaint, or expresses dissatisfaction with the outcome or handling of the unauthorised or disputed transaction.

But if you do not record these, how do you know they are being correctly handled, within the required response timeframes?

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David Jacobson

Author: David Jacobson
Principal, Bright Corporate Law
About David Jacobson
The information contained in this article is not legal advice. It is not to be relied upon as a full statement of the law. You should seek professional advice for your specific needs and circumstances before acting or relying on any of the content.

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