Poor customer service or not responding adequately to a consumer complaint will be grounds for a business to be named and shamed online under guidelines released for the first government-backed NSW Complaints Register.

About 25 to 35 brands are expected to be included in the first “rogues gallery” of most complained-about businesses, which will be published on the NSW Fair Trading website.

Cause for complaint

Top 10 complaints made to NSW Fair Trading in 2014 and 2015.
Customers_Complain350pxConsumers feel like screaming when faced with dodgy traders ignoring their complaints.

Ten complaints in a month will qualify a brand for inclusion on the list.

Complaints don’t need to involve a breach of the law, the finalised guidelines show. Fair Trading only needs to verify the complainant is a real person who has had dealings with the trader.

Natalie Markovski, 29, needed a compact stroller for a family trip to the Gold Coast. But the $280 online bargain she snapped up from a Victorian baby store still hadn’t been delivered three months after the holiday was over.

“They took my money straight away and then hid away,” she says.

telecommunications-hold_250pxWith no phone number to contact, she was trapped in endless, and fruitless, correspondence by email. At first the website insisted the stroller would soon arrive. Then silence. After five emails from Ms Markovski, she received a reply saying the store would check the warehouse.

Holiday over, she wanted a refund instead.

She threatened to call Fair Trading three times before she actually did.

“It was a three-month ordeal. Usually I research everything. I don’t know why I got sucked in. It turns out they were sitting on my money for 90 days to earn interest. It was an Australian website, which is disgusting,” she said.

They took my money straight away and then hid away.

Natalie Markovski

Fair Trading was able to get a refund in 10 days.

She thinks a public complaints register will help protect consumers from making the same mistake she did.

“They need to name and shame. Something needs to happen to stop them.”

Data collection will begin in July, with the first complaints dashboard to be published online in August. It will allow consumers to search by product category or brand name.

Raw data will also be released under the NSW government’s open data policy, for use by third parties to develop consumer-friendly apps.

The Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation, Victor Dominello, said: “The register will not only ensure that citizens are empowered to make informed decisions, it will also lead to improved customer outcomes – providing traders with an incentive to improve their service offerings and also ensure that traders take full accountability for the goods and services they provide.”

consumerrightsCHOICE spokesman Tom Godfrey said the register was a significant step forward for consumers: “This information is currently sitting behind closed doors under lock and key. Ten complaints will soon give a picture of how companies are performing.”

He said it was fair for poor customer service to be included on the list.

Customer-Complaints-561-resized-600-300x213“Knowing the business name, number of complaints and the product or service that has caused the problem will help consumers avoid falling victim to the usual suspects on rogues’ gallery.”

Clicking this image will take you directly to the NSW Government Fair Trading pagesfairtradingbanner700pxFair Trading will contact businesses by email three days before publicly naming them.

Originally published SMH March 13, 2016