ACCAN Customer Service Project (25 August 2009)

3.3. Lessons from history

The history of service charters in Australia and elsewhere provides some useful lessons:

  • Service charters are often implemented post-privatisation, while a new industry is dealing with the move into a commercial / competitive environment and Governments are attempting to provide additional consumer protections. This experience is common in many jurisdictions and includes experience in the telecommunications, transport, water and energy sectors;
  • Service charters are also sometimes implemented as Government services are delivered to the community by quasi-government agencies (e.g. Australia Post);
  • In the commercial sector customer service charters appear to be driven by ‘bottom-up’ initiatives – e.g. a single company acting alone to differentiate itself from competitors (e.g. AAMI). They are not usually driven from above (e.g. government requirements) except for the period post-privatisation;
  • Overall, private sector service charter activity peaked in the 1990s and appears to have passed. In any case, there was never a period when service charters were more dominant / effective than other regulatory tools (laws and codes). Rather, service charters have complemented laws and codes, usually for a short period following privatisation; and
  • There is continued interest in service charters in the Australian government sector, but government interest in service charters in other jurisdictions has waned.