What we do with your complaint

When you complain to us, we will listen and treat you with respect. We're here to help you.

You can make a complaint though our online complaint form, by phone or by email. You can also phone or email us to make an appointment to come to our office in person.

We are impartial and independent of the government.

This page sets out is how we handle your complaint.

We assess your complaint

We will provide an initial acknowledgement that we have received your complaint.

We will then assess your complaint to decide what action we should take.

When assessing your complaint, we will consider:

  • is this a complaint we can handle? If it is a complaint we cannot handle, we will try to help you find the right person who can.
  • if you have already complained to the agency or service provider itself, how did it respond?
  • is there supporting information that indicates the conduct of the agency may have been unreasonable or otherwise wrong?
  • does the complaint raise issues that appear to be serious and/or urgent?

To assess your complaint, we may need to talk to you or ask you to provide further information to us.

Most complaints are handled within 30 business days. Complex complaints and formal investigations will take longer.

We will tell you what we decide to do with your complaint and give reasons for our decision.

We give you information and advice

In responding to your complaint, we will explain your options or work with the agency to help you resolve the problem.

If you haven’t raised the issue with the agency or service provider first, we may ask you to do so, and will explain how you can do that.

We may be able to provide you with information or guidance to help you to resolve your issue with the agency yourself.

We may identify that there is a better avenue to deal with your complaint, such as where the agency has an internal appeal process or if there is another more specialised oversight or review body that is better placed to handle your complaint. If there is a better avenue, we will guide you to that better avenue. In some cases, we can make that referral for you.

After assessing your complaint and providing any information and guidance we can to help you to resolve it, we may decide not to take any further action.

We won’t take further action if, having considered your complaint and any supporting information you have provided, it does not appear to us that the agency or service provider acted in a way that was objectively unreasonable or manifestly wrong.

Even if it appears the agency or service provider has done something wrong, we may not take further action for other reasons, such as if the issues you have complained about appear to be comparatively minor or if they occurred a long time ago. That is because we receive many complaints each year, and we may need to prioritise our work toward those that are most serious or where our efforts will be of most use.

We make inquiries of the agency or service provider

We can make direct inquiries with the agency or service provider about your complaint. In doing so, we will outline your complaint, and ask questions and seek information.

We will keep you informed about any inquiries we make, and the agency or service provider’s response.

The agency or service provider may respond in a way that resolves your complaint, without us needing to take any further investigatory action.

Even if you are unhappy with the agency’s response to our inquiries, we may at this point decide not to take any further action. This may be for reasons above – including if, having regard to the information provided both by you and the agency or service provider, it does not appear to us that the agency or service provider acted in a way that was objectively unreasonable or manifestly wrong.

We make comments to the agency or service provider

Sometimes we will make comments or suggestions to an agency or service provider arising out of a complaint.

These suggestions are often made at the time we finalise a complaint. They can be aimed at improving service delivery for customers and internal business practices.

Generally, agencies and service providers act on the suggestions we make.

We can formally investigate your complaint

We may formally investigate your complaint.

However, we can only do this it appears to us that the agency or service provider acted in a way that was objectively unreasonable or manifestly wrong.

Our aim is to resolve complaints as early and efficiently as possible, without the need for investigatory action. We rarely commence a formal investigation into a complaint.

Our priority is to commence a formal investigation where we have identified serious and/or systemic concerns about agency or service provider wrongdoing.

If a complaint proceeds to a formal investigation, it may take many months to complete.

We will keep you informed about how we are progressing throughout the investigation.

When we finish the investigation, we will provide an investigation report to the agency or service provider, and also to the relevant Minister. The report will set out the issues we have investigated and our findings. It may also include recommendations we make to address the problems we identify.

Agencies generally accept our recommendations, even though we cannot force them to. If they don't, or if there are serious systemic or public interest matters, we can make a report to Parliament. If the complaint is about a community service, and the agency decides not to implement our recommendations, a person can seek a review of that decision through the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

We can refer a complaint to the agency or service provider for investigation

Another way we can have an issue investigated is to refer the complaint to an agency for its own investigation.

When we do so, we can monitor the progress of the investigation, and the agency must report back to us on the outcome of our referral.

Voluntary conciliation

We can conciliate a complaint. This involves both sides agreeing to come together to talk about the problem with one of our conciliators.  A conciliation can improve communication and help to reach an agreement on a way forward.

If you need help

You can talk to us if you need help making a complaint. We will give you advice and assistance.

We also have information in Easy Read and other languages.