Sunday 17 August 2014

Reviewing the Written SOLO Complaints Procedure

If you are regulated by IPREG you are required to have a written complaints procedure (Rule 12 of the Code of Conduct) if by the SRA, its an indicative behaviour (IB1.22 under client care ) rather than a micro-managed obligation.
Ways to Complain?

Since the only complaint adjudicated and published  by the Disciplinary Board of IPREG concerns the absence of such a document for which the the Board decided on 9 September 2013 that the agent had
"breached his professional obligations over a long period of time in a significant way and the Board therefore imposes a fine of £500 to reflect the serious nature of this breach " ( the Duck says yes really that's what it says - IPREG won't get rich this way especially as it did not ask for costs to the surprise of the Board )

It seems useful to consider what your complaints procedure might look like for a SOLO as opposed to a sole practitioner (who might have complaints arising from work done by his staff).

The client of a regulated SOLO must be able to complain and the only person he can complain to is you so terms of trade need to draw attention to that and indicate that for some clients (individuals and micro-enterprises as defined by the EU) there is a right to refer the complaint to the Legal Ombudsman (LEO) so bearing in mind that the complainer has to give you 8 weeks to deal with the complaint, this is what has to happen:

  • identify the complaint as a formal complaint
  • ask for the complaint to be set out in writing
  • notify your insurer (its not a claim a this stage but its always good to put insurers on notice)
  • acknowledge the written complaint and indicate when you will reply (2-4 weeks would seem to be reasonable depending on what investigation is needed and whether your insurer would like to review it)
  • prepare a written response and resolution proposal including details of his LEO rights if any
  • sleep on it
  • send it
  • follow up within 8 weeks of identification.
Obviously how it goes depends on the nature of the complaint. Larger firms refer the investigation and  response to a more senior partner which offers an independent eye as there can be a tendency for the person complained about to go "head in sand". As a SOLO you simply cannot do that. As well as notifying your insurer you could contact a trusted professional friend. This may well help with the resolution proposal. You might think your professional body could help. At the moment, I doubt it, but its certainly a service they could think about offering to members.

LEO has now handled a number of complaints from the IPREG - regulated but does not publish details.

Since the LEO compensation options are limited, expect a professional negligence claim if the client is after substantial compensation. As can be seen from the published judgement there is not much in it for the client when complaining to IPREG.

There is no copyright in that bulleted list.  I commend it to the public domain, if it is a literary work (which is doubtful). Please feel free to offer your own versions of this apparently essential document.

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