Complaints register

The NSW Fair Trading complaints register lists businesses that have had 10 or more complaints against them in one calendar month. Businesses are listed according to their public and recognisable 'trading' or 'brand' name. The register is updated monthly in the second half of each month with complaints data received in from the previous calendar month.

Franchised businesses on the register are sorted by location. This allows consumers to see how many complaints have been received about each location. Any businesses with a collective total of 10 or more complaints across all locations will appear on the register.

What information is included on the register?

Only complaints that have been made by a real person, relating to a real interaction with a business will be listed on the register. Information listed includes:

  • the name of the business (the recognised business/brand name)
  • the number of complaints received by Fair Trading about the business in the last month
  • the product groups complained about.

Guidelines

The complaints register guidelines provides information about what is classed as a complaint, how Fair Trading deals with complaints, and the limitations of the complaints data.

The guidelines note that:

  • many complaints received by Fair Trading simply relate to poor customer service. Appearing on the register does not necessarily mean that a business has breached any laws
  • the register only reports on complaints received by Fair Trading
  • larger businesses or businesses in particular industries may attract more complaints
  • media attention on an issue may generate more complaints.

The Guidelines will be updated from time to time as refinements are made to NSW Fair Trading's policies, processes and systems. The information listed on the register is downloadable, and is part of the NSW Government's open data policy, which recognises the important role that information plays in the economy and the community. The Complaints Register is established under s86AA of the Fair Trading Act

What information does the complaints register list?

The register will list the name of the business, the number of complaints NSW Fair Trading has received about the business in the previous calendar month and the product groups that are the subject of the complaints.

These product groups reflect segments of the marketplace, including:

  • accommodation and food
  • agriculture, forestry and fishing
  • community/strata schemes
  • construction
  • education and training
  • employment/investment/gambling
  • financial and insurance services
  • information media and telecommunications
  • professional, scientific and technical services
  • property
  • retail
  • tenancy/bonds/parks
  • transport, postal and warehousing
  • utilities
  • other services.

Is it legal to publish this information?

Yes. Section 86AA of the Fair Trading Act 1987 allows for the publication of information about complaints. No details about the person making the complaint will be published.

I am a consumer and I made a complaint about a business. Why isn't it on the register?

The register only provides information about businesses that have 10 or more complaints received by to us in the previous calendar month.

Why does the register only include businesses that have 10 or more complaints in a month? 

This threshold was chosen based on the feedback by consumers and businesses provided to us during the consultation process.

Won’t the register only list larger businesses, as they are statistically more likely to have more complaints, due to having more customers and transactions?

We do not have access to data about the number of transactions undertaken by all businesses, and therefore it has no useful way to measure or determine the size of a business. The register has a number of limitations which consumers should be aware of. These are described in the Guidelines and include:

  • larger businesses may attract greater numbers of complaints due to the larger number of transactions undertaken
  • the Register only reports on complaints that have been made to NSW Fair Trading
  • the Register does not provide information about the severity or seriousness of a complaint, or the level of harm experienced
  • a complaint to NSW Fair Trading does not necessarily mean that the business being complained about has breached any laws
  • certain types of businesses may generate more complaints than others due to the nature of the products or services offered
  • businesses operate under a variety of legal structures (eg. franchise, independently owned subsidiary, etc.) which can impact how much influence a particular store or staff member has over policies or decisions, and
  • media attention and publicity about a matter can affect the number of complaints that are reported to NSW Fair Trading.

What is the process for being removed from the register once listed?

Monthly listings will remain on the website for two years. This will enable trends to be identified and for changes in business performance to be tracked. The main screen of the register will display the months that the complaint data is available. This will allow users to choose the month they want to view.

I am a franchisee who has never had a single complaint, yet my franchise brand is listed on the register. Why are franchisees grouped together as one?

The register groups together complaints against particular branches/franchisees as against the overall brand, as this is how the public identify the business. The public recognise these brand names and they are a means of attracting customers. Business policies applied by individual entities are likely to be set by the brand's head office, it is appropriate that complaints be recorded against the brand as a whole.

I cannot get any complaint information at all regarding the particular kind of product/services I am looking for. Why not? 

The register simply lists those businesses that have 10 or more complaints in the previous calendar month. If a listed business sells products or services a consumer is interested in, the consumer can check to see if there are any complaints about those products/services.

What other information does Fair Trading hold about consumer complaints that is not being made public? 

We hold information about the person who made the complaint, the business complained about, the product/services complained about, the conduct or problem complained about, including detailed information about the circumstances of the complaint, and the status of the complaint.

What protection is there for businesses from consumers making vexatious complaints? 

The process for registering a complaint with us is multi-layered, with a number of quality assurance checkpoints. As part of its complaint handling process, we check for duplicate complaints and complaints from the same person. We also appoint case managers to maintain an overview of complaints, for all businesses subject to multiple complaints. These checks reduce the potential of false or fictitious complaints being included in the register.

Why doesn’t the register only list complaints where the business has breached the law? 

We publish separate information when a business breaches the law. Most of the complaints are in relation to poor customer service, which does not breach the law.

Why doesn’t the register provide information about how serious complaints are and what the problem complained about is? 

The register will not provide details about the conduct or problem that is the subject of the complaint, although this information may be included in the future.

How do I record email/contact information to ensure my business receives notification of any intended publication on the register? 

Any business that is the subject of complaints will be contacted by us. Businesses subject to multiple complaints will have a case manager appointed.

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