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Customer Service

City of Waterloo

The City of Waterloo is committed to continuous organizational improvement in an environment where all complaints are dealt with fairly in a respectful, transparent fashion, as quickly as possible.

What is a complaint?

A complaint is an expression of dissatisfaction related to a City of Waterloo program, service, facility, or staff member, where a citizen believes that the city has not provided a service experience to the customer's satisfaction at the point of service delivery and a response or resolution is explicitly or implicitly expected. 

Examples of complaints:

  • A service was not delivered in the specified timeline
  • A service was not provided in accordance with the city's policies, procedures, by-laws, etc.

The following are not considered complaints:

Request for service:  A request made to the city of Waterloo on behalf of a citizen for a specific service, or to notify the city that a scheduled service was not provided on time.  Examples include:

  • Requesting that the city repair a street surface
  • Reporting a burnt out street light
  • Alerting the city of no water service
  • Report a by-law or parking infraction
  • Report a claim against the city

Enquiry: A general or specific request for information regarding a City of Waterloo product or service made by a citizen that is resolved at the point of service delivery.

Feedback: An opinion, comment and expression of interest in a City of Waterloo program or service by a citizen.

Compliment: An expression of approval for a City of Waterloo service, staff member, program, product or process. 

Suggestion:  An idea submitted to the City of Waterloo by a customer with the aim of improving services, programs, products or processes.

Who can make a complaint?

Anyone who uses or is affected by city services can make a complaint. This includes:

  • Residents
  • People who work in or visit the City of Waterloo
  • Local businesses
  • Community groups

Submitting a complaint

Please note that you will be asked to provide the following information:

  • Details of what happened
  • Where did this happen?  Is it within the city's area of responsibility?
  • When?
  • Who was involved?
  • What was said or done?
  • What kind of resolution is being sought?
  • Contact details of the complainant

Formal complaints are submitted online.

All complaints will be dealt with in a confidential manner according to the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.  Information will be collected, used and disclosed in accordance with the Act.  

To the extent that the foregoing information constitutes personal information as defined in the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, R.S.O. 1990, chapter M.56 as amended, the information is subject to provisions of that Act and will be used for the purposes indicated or implied by this form. Questions about the collection of personal information should be directed to the City Clerk, Waterloo City Centre, 100 Regina Street South, Waterloo, Ontario, N2J 4A8, telephone (519) 886-1550. 

Waterloo Area Municipal Ombuds Office 

The City of Waterloo, together with the Townships of Woolwich, Wilmot and Wellesley, the City of Cambridge and the Region of Waterloo, have contracted Agree Incorporated to provide ombuds services to their respective municipalities. The ombuds acts at arm's length from city council and the corporation. The ombuds office will independently receive, review and investigate complaints, provide periodic updates as a result of investigations and produce an annual report of its activities. 

The Waterloo Area Municipal Ombuds Office is an office of last resort for members of the public to bring forward unresolved complaints when all other processes have been exhausted. You may be able to resolve your complaint directly with the City of Waterloo. We can direct you to the appropriate local officials wherever possible and help you to follow our local/internal customer service feedback procedure. If you have not taken steps to resolve your issue with the city directly or followed our customer service feedback procedure, the Waterloo Area Municipal Ombuds Office will refer you back to the city.

Matters that fall within the ombuds' mandate to investigate are:

  • Where you believe the city has not followed appropriate procedures in arriving at a decision;
  • Where you believe the city has acted in a way that is contrary to its own rules, procedures or by-laws;
  • Where you believe the city has made a decision that is outside of its powers to make;
  • Where you believe the city has failed to take a specific action that it is required to take under its rules, procedures or by-laws;
  • Where you believe a decision or recommendation made, act done or omitted to be done in the course of the administration of the city, so long as it does not fall under the list of matters that are not within the ombuds' mandate to investigate (see below). 

Matters that do not fall within the ombuds' mandate are:

  • Any city decision, recommendation, act or omission in respect of which there is a right of appeal, review or objection to any court or tribunal, until that right of appeal, review or objection has been exercised, or the time for the exercise of that right has expired;
  • Cases where the inquirer has not taken their complaint to the city first;
  • Decisions, recommendations, acts or omissions of a legal advisor or counsel to the city;
  • Complaints regarding closed meetings of city council;
  • Complaints that are within the mandate of the integrity commissioner;
  • Complaints where the subject matter is deemed to be trivial, frivolous, vexatious of an abuse of the ombuds office process or which are not made in good faith, in the opinion of the ombuds office;
  • Cases where more than one year has passed since the inquirer learned the facts on which the complaint or inquiry is based, unless special circumstances exist.

Process

Inquirers provide (within one year as above) a completed and signed inquirer's submission form with consent to disclose such evidence and information as is necessary to conduct a full, fair and impartial inquiry or investigation. Complaints and inquiries must originate from the affected party; the ombuds office does not accept complaints from interested, but unaffected third parties.

An initial review is conducted to decide whether a file may be investigated.  During the review, the following questions are considered:

  • Did the inquirer already go through the city's internal complaint process?  If not, the inquirer will be referred to the appropriate city office;
  • Is the complaint or concern within the ombuds office's mandate? 

Inquirers and the respondent, where appropriate, are advised of the outcome of the initial review. 

An initial review may result in the inquirer and the city being advised that the issue may be investigated.  It may also result in an initial review letter advising the inquirer (and respondent if appropriate) that the file is being closed because the inquiry is not within the ombuds office mandate, together with a referral to the appropriate body to lodge a complaint, wherever possible. 

For inquiries that proceed to investigation, the investigator will review all of the documentation that was provided by both the inquirer and the city.  If the investigator believes that the issue(s) may be able to be resolved consensually, the matter may be referred for early resolution through a conflict management professional.  If a resolution is not possible, the matter will be referred back to the Investigator who will continue investigating the complaint and who may contact the inquirer and the city to schedule interviews and gather information. 

The report will contain the Investigator's findings, either recommending a remedy for the concern to the city or rejecting the complaint.  In either case, the report will contain reasons for the decision. Ombuds offices cannot order a municipality or an inquirer to take any steps but may make recommendations with persuasive reasons.  Such recommendations are often followed.

More information

For more information, visit the Waterloo Area Municipal Ombuds Office.

Agree Incorporated Ombuds Office can be reached as follows:

Agree Incorporated
36 Dundas St.
Dundas, ON L9H 1A2
Toll Free: 1-888-224-2488
Email: ombuds@civicombuds.ca