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What happens when you make a complaint

Our main function is to try and help you and the organisation resolve your complaint. This process is called conciliation, and it’s all about finding ways to resolve disputes, rather than assigning blame or determining fault.

As conciliators, our staff remain independent. We do not take sides, and we do not represent either party. Our job is to help you and the organisation talk through the issues and resolve your complaint in a way that is acceptable to everyone.

This page provides a short overview of our complaints process. For more detailed guidance, refer to our Guide to privacy complaints for individuals.

Our complaints process

When we receive your complaint, we will conduct an initial review to confirm that we have all the information we need and that it’s within our jurisdiction to consider. Sometimes complaints are about matters that the Commissioner does not have the power to try to resolve, and will need to be referred to a different organisation.

If your complaint is incomplete or unclear, we can help you to refine it. We may also contact you and/or the organisation you have complained about to ask questions, or to explore options for quick resolution of your complaint.

After our initial review, we will formally notify the organisation by sending them a copy of your complaint (or a summary of the complaint if one has been prepared by our staff and approved by you). We will ask the organisation to contact us to have a preliminary discussion about the complaint and to explore options for resolving it. Depending on their response, we may come back to you for more information, or to get your views on alternative options for resolving matters.

If it is appropriate in the circumstances, we will try to conciliate. Conciliation may be conducted indirectly (where the parties communicate with each other through us), over the phone, or at a face to face meeting. We will decide on the best approach to conciliation in each case. You can find more information on our About conciliation page.

In some cases, we might decline to entertain your complaint. For example, if we think that the act or practice you have complained about does not breach the IPPs, or if we think that the organisation has already dealt adequately with your complaint.

If we think conciliation is inappropriate or has failed, or if we decline to entertain your complaint, we’ll let you know. If this happens, you can have the complaint referred to the Victorian Civic and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) for hearing. You can find more information about privacy complaints at VCAT in our guide, or on VCAT’s website.

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