COMPLAINTS HANDLING PROCEDURE
A Complaint is any expression of dissatisfaction. Usually any initial complaint will be dealt with informally by the person with conduct of their claim but if this cannot be resolved to the client’s satisfaction then notice must be given of the company’s formal complaint process.
A formal complaint is any complaint sent in writing to the partner responsible for handling complaints, Alison Brooks. Any formal complaint made against Alison Brooks will be referred to David Tomlinson.
All formal complaints will be reviewed in accordance with the latest SRA codes of conduct. From the outset, a standard letter detailing our complaints process will be sent to the client which will include timeframes, rights of the client and right to complain to the Legal Ombudsman. Costs of dealing with a complaint will not be charged.
The Complaints Process
If an informal complaint is made this will be recorded on the matter file and the supervising partner must be informed from the outset of the complaint and if it has been satisfactorily resolved. Any informal complaints should include resolution of the issue and highlight any areas where improvements can be made to avoid similar complaints in the future. If appropriate, the supervising partner will consider any changes that need to be introduced which will avoid future problems occurring.
First Tier Review
If a formal complaint is made, the complaints officer will acknowledge the complaint within 5 working days and remind the client of the complaints process as set out above. The complaints officer will review the matter file within 28 days of sending the acknowledgement letter, if possible. If the complaint cannot be reviewed in this time period the client will be told and reasons given for the delay.
The response will restate our understanding of the complaint; it will also confirm our decision and how we reached it.
If there is evidence of poor service this will be acknowledged. The company will consider a remedy if appropriate which might include:
- an apology
- compensation for loss suffered
- compensation for inconvenience, distress or both
- putting things right
- reducing the bill or limiting fees
If there is no evidence of poor service, the complaints officer will fully explain how they reached that decision and, if possible, give evidence in support.
Second Tier Review
If the complaint is still unresolved, another Director will review the complaint to reach an independent decision. The second review of the complaint will also include discussions with staff and reading of the file. A letter will be sent to the client acknowledging the 2nd tier process, our understanding of the complaint and how it will be investigated and setting out a reasonable timetable to respond. The second tier will usually be acknowledge within 3 working days from notice of the unresolved complaint with a full response within 14 days of acknowledgement; any delay will be notified to the client as soon as practicable.
If the complaint is not upheld at the second tier review then the client will again be informed of their right to complain to the Legal Ombudsman and/or an approved ADR body.
If the complaint is satisfactorily resolved the details will be confirmed in writing to the client and a record of the complaint and the remedy kept.
The final letter will include:
- a brief outline of the complaint
- the decision made and how it was reached
- what remedies were offered, if any
- an explanation that, in the absence of new evidence, you will not correspond further with the client and the complaint matter is closed
- a statement saying that the complaints officer will monitor any further correspondence for new evidence or areas of complaints not previously raised and considered and will consider this new information and any appropriate action.
- Make it clear this is a final letter and any timescales
If a client wishes to re-instruct you or continue with a retainer where matters are not resolved, the Directors will consider if the company can continue to act in these circumstances or if we cannot continue to act for the client.
If there is evidence of a potential claim in negligence this will be reported immediately to Alison Brooks who will contact the company’s professional indemnity insurers. She will also immediately notify all the Directors of the company. In these circumstances, it may not be appropriate to offer an apology to the client without the insurer’s consent.
Recording of Complaints
Informal resolved complaints will be noted in writing on the matter file only. A letter will be sent to the client confirming the basis on which the complaint has been resolved.
A written folder of formal complaints will be kept and maintained by the complaints officer, setting out details of each formal complaint, correspondence and outcomes.
Annual monitoring of complaints will be undertaken by the complaints officer to:
- identify trends to consider any procedures or processes which need to be amended to improve services
- consider if policy or procedure changes have reduced the level of complaints
- assess the effectiveness of internal complaint resolution
- build up an understanding of appropriate remedies to common complaints.