Unreasonable Customer Conduct Procedure
In September 2017, Council introduced an Unreasonable Customer Conduct Procedure. This page answers some questions about the procedure to help our community understand its context.
If you have any questions about the procedure not answered on this page, please email us:
Frequently asked questions
The aim of the procedure is to help us manage unreasonable customers to ensure a healthy, safe and secure work environment for staff and councillors, and to ensure we allocate customer service resources fairly for all Council's customers.
The new procedure replaces these two codes that were previously in effect from 2006:
- Complaints - Repetitive Complainants
- Complaints - Difficult Complainants
We completed our four-yearly policy review in September 2017, and as part of this we also reviewed some of our related codes and procedures.
We worked with the NSW Ombudsman to develop an Unreasonable Customer Conduct Procedure based on the Ombudsman's model policy and procedure for Managing Unreasonable Complainant Conduct.
Most of the changes from the 2006 codes relate to language style and format rather than changes to the aim or purpose of the procedure.
Other councils may title their procedure or code differently, but this type of procedure is common in government agencies, organisations and not-for-profit organisations across Australia. Eurobodalla Council's is based on the NSW Ombudsman's Managing Unreasonable Complainant Conduct model policy and procedure.
Procedures and codes of practice are considered operational matters on which councils are not required to seek feedback through public exhibition. Procedures are different from policies, which councils are required to put on public exhibition.
The framework for the Unreasonable Customer Conduct procedure is outlined in the Customer Service Policy (Section 8) adopted by Council on 27 June 2017 after a public exhibition period during which no submissions were received.
Because the procedure consolidates and updates to previous codes, its intent and application are not new.
The procedure is based on the NSW Ombudsman's Managing Unreasonable Complainant Conduct model. It was developed with and approved by the NSW Ombudsman and is consistent with best practice.
Using Council's Engagement Planning Tool as a guide, we determined that the new procedure would have minimal impact on a very small number of people in the community who would be informed in writing.
We considered "informing" our community to be an appropriate level of engagement and decided to let the community know by advertising that we had adopted a new procedure in Noticeboard (which is available on Council's website and in local print newspapers), and making the procedure available on the website.
The procedure is likely to relate to a very small number of people whose behaviour is considered to be extreme and unreasonable.
This doesn't necessarily include people who simply contact Council regularly. We believe it is reasonable for many customers to be in regular and frequent contact with Council. They may be addressing one or more specific matters they are personally, professionally, or indirectly involved with.
It is also reasonable that people in our community who have a keen interest and understanding of Council matters have regular and frequent contact with Council and councillors.
We appreciate and respect their interest and feedback and we do our best to provide the information they need so they can be accurately informed and have their requests answered. Feedback gives us a better understanding of the community's needs and expectations, and people who contact Council can help us identify issues and consider different perspectives.
Unreasonable customer conduct is explained in detail in the procedure and we encourage you to read the full procedure:
Most of our customers act reasonably and responsibly, even if they are experiencing distress, frustration or anger about a particular matter.
There is a small number of customers who behave in ways that are inappropriate or unacceptable or otherwise compromise the health, safety and security of Council staff, other customers or the customer themselves. Some customers waste staff time and Council resources without good reason and this has an unfair impact on our ability to provide services to everyone who needs them.
Unreasonable behaviours can include:
- aggression, verbal or physical abuse towards councillors, staff, or other customers
- threatening harm and violence including the threat to use a weapon
- stalking staff in person or online
- inundating Council's offices with unnecessary and excessive phone calls and emails
- making inappropriate demands on Council's time and resources
- refusing to accept Council's decisions and recommendations in relation to their matter
- persistently demanding a response to a question, even after an answer has been provided
- repeatedly sending irrelevant and disorganised information without clearly defining any issues
- repeatedly presenting arguments that are not supported by evidence
- repeatedly demanding services that Council cannot provide despite explanation from Council.
When customers behave in these ways, we will consider their conduct to be 'unreasonable' in one or more of these five categories that are detailed in the procedure:
- unreasonable persistence
- unreasonable demands
- unreasonable lack of cooperation
- unreasonable arguments
- unreasonable behaviours.
An example of unreasonable persistence is a customer phoning or emailing more than thirty times a month demanding detailed information on single or multiple matters, despite the customer already receiving a response from Council.
Council could issue a warning to the individual that if this behaviour continues, we may restrict the number of requests we will respond to in a given period.
For someone who is repeatedly aggressive or offensive to our staff, we might restrict access to staff and only acknowledge emails sent to the email@example.com address (rather than the customer directly contacting individual staff members).
Very few warning letters have been issued where the customer acted in a way which put staff at risk.
Where this has occurred, the person has been asked to limit interaction to phone and written requests rather than visiting Council's offices. Limits like this are reviewed after six months.
The aim of the procedure is to help us manage unreasonable behaviour, not to stop contact entirely.
If a person behaves in an unreasonable manner the procedure may be applied and certain restrictions may be imposed.