Victorian councils often view complaints as a nuisance or provoke a defensive response, according to the state's ombudsman.
The state's 79 councils were surveyed by ombudsman Deborah Glass who found many understate the number they receive and don't deal with the issue properly.
"All too often complaints are seen as a nuisance, or provoke a defensive, unhelpful, bureaucratic response," Ms Glass said.
If someone rang a council and said their bin wasn't emptied only 34 per cent of councils would consider it a complaint as opposed to a "request for service", the ombudsman's report found.
"Capturing them as complaints allows councils to consider what may be needed to address systemic patterns of dissatisfaction that may emerge, to improve their service to their communities," she said.
In 2018 Melbourne City Council said it received 88 complaints but one of the state's smallest shires Ararat Rural City Council in state's south-west received 1880.
"It is not a solution to disguise the true level of community dissatisfaction by labelling it as a 'request for service' or 'matter with a statutory right of appeal', instead of recognising is as a 'complaint," Ms Glass said.
However she said more councils now had policies for how complaints should be handled but many still needed to make their complain system more accessible.
The Victorian government has accepted her recommendations which include legislative changes forcing councils to broaden the definition of what a complaint is and to publicly report their complaint data annually.
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