Anne-Gaelle is an elderly French woman who has lived most of her life in New Zealand. As she gets older, she says it is getting harder and harder for her to both understand English and to be understood. A trustee company manages her financial affairs. Anne-Gaelle says she has been asking the trustee company repeatedly for help, but they pretend they do not understand her or promise to help and do nothing. Anne-Gaelle feels as though the trustee company think she is uneducated, but she says she has attended university both in France and New Zealand.
A couple of years ago, before she retired, Anne-Gaelle became very unwell and applied for a sickness benefit through Work and Income New Zealand (WINZ). WINZ told Anne-Gaelle that it needed information about her income from the trustee company. Anne-Gaelle authorised the trustee company to release that information but it did not. As a result, Anne-Gaelle decided to forgo the benefit and rely on her daughter for financial help. The whole experience was extremely stressful.
More recently, Anne-Gaelle has become extremely worried that her affairs are not being properly managed, and the trustee company’s reassurances do not ring true. Anne-Gaelle asked FSCL for help.
The trustee company agreed Anne-Gaelle had frequently contact it, but just did not understand how it could help her. From the trustee company’s perspective, it had done everything she had asked and did not know how to progress matters.
Anne-Gaelle says she has told the trustee company what she needed, but it dismissed her.
It seemed to us that the communication had completely broken down between Anne-Gaelle and the trustee company. We were also having some difficulty understanding the cause of Anne-Gaelle’s concern. We felt the best way forward would be to have everyone in a room and talk through Anne-Gaelle’s concerns.
Unfortunately, Covid-19 had other ideas and we had to cancel the planned meeting. We discussed with the trustee company and Anne-Gaelle how we might meet. Anne-Gaelle confirmed that she was familiar with video calling and that her daughter might be able to help explain her frustrations.
We arranged for a video call between Anne-Gaelle, her daughter Clementine, the person responsible for managing her affairs at the trustee company and the trustee company’s complaints person. Only two of the five people on the call were in the same city, but through using modern technology we were able to make contact.
With Clementine’s help, Anne-Gaelle was able to express herself and the trustee company was able to explain some of the things it had said to Anne-Gaelle that had caused so much confusion. As it transpired, the trustee company needed some documents from Anne-Gaelle to allow it to complete a tax return. Clementine said she would make sure the trustee got the necessary documents.
The trustee company sincerely apologised for the distress Anne-Gaelle had experienced. However, it explained that its records showed it had given WINZ the information requested and could not understand why the sickness beneficiary application could not be progressed. Anne-Gaelle accepted the explanation and apology.
We then discussed how we might avoid this happening in the future. We agreed that, in the first instance, all communication will be in writing. But if the trustee company does not receive the response it is expecting from Anne-Gaelle, it will arrange a video call with Clementine.
The complaint was satisfactorily resolved on this basis.
Insights for all of us
We are looking forward to using video calling more often in the future as an efficient way to resolve complaints. We think it will be particularly helpful where a relationship or communication breakdown sits at the heart of a complaint. Being able to see the people involved and pick up on visual cues may help to re-establish relationships.