Under the requirements of clauses 9a and 9b of the code of conduct, advisers must:
- develop and maintain internal procedures for the resolution of complaints
- explain their internal complaints procedure to the client
- provide the client with a copy of their internal complaints procedure.
Issues that have been identified in this area of professional practice include advisers:
- not providing a copy of their internal complaints procedure to the client
- not adequately explaining their internal complaints procedure to the client
- having a lack of a reasonable, or any, timeframes for resolution of a complaint
- not following their own internal complaints procedure.
At a minimum, an internal complaints procedure should include the following information:
- the details of the person whom the complaint can be made to
- how to complain
- grounds for complaint
- timeframes for acknowledgement of a complaint, and a response to the complaint
- details of the complaints and disciplinary procedures that are outlined in the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act 2007, and an explanation of how these can be accessed if the complaint is not resolved satisfactorily using the internal complaints procedure.
Role and value of the internal complaints procedure
It is a reality that all professionals make mistakes, that they will be unfairly accused of making mistakes, and that they will have to deal with clients who have been disappointed. Professionals deal with aspects of peoples lives that are both important to them, and often, emotionally sensitive.
Advisers should not take a defensive attitude to having an internal complaints procedure, and instead should see it as an opportunity to deal effectively with issues that have “gone wrong”. If a client comes to an adviser with a complaint, and the adviser addresses their concerns effectively, the adviser may well keep a healthy professional relationship with that client.
As a starting point, an adviser should usually acknowledge the genuineness of the client’s concerns, which is a different matter from accepting that he or she has done something wrong. In fact, the client may have a genuine concern, which is founded on them misunderstanding something.
In assessing the client’s complaint, an adviser should objectively consider whether they have made a mistake, and what they should do to fix it, if that is the case. Taking an emotionally reactive approach may be very costly professionally.
Some clients will be unreasonable, and an adviser will not be able to change that. The great majority of clients however, will be greatly influenced by whether their adviser listens to their concerns, explains honestly and frankly what their perspective is, takes responsibility to the extent that they have been in error; and tries to put things right.
Duty to explain internal complaints procedure
The duty to explain the adviser’s internal complaints procedure to clients in clause 9b, can be met orally or in writing.
The threshold required however, is something more than just to ‘make aware of’ or ‘give a copy of’, and the onus will be on the adviser to show that the explanation given has been sufficiently clear, and in language that the client can easily understand.
Where such an explanation is given orally, the adviser should make a file note recording the nature and extent of the explanation given, and attach this to the client file.
The duty to provide a copy of the adviser’s internal complaints procedure to the client can be physically met by handing a copy to the client, by posting a copy to the client, or by providing an electronic copy to the client, where the client has agreed to accept electronic communication.
Sample internal complaints procedure
Provided below is a sample internal complaints procedure:
|Internal Complaints Procedure
[Company Name and Business Address]
- If at any time you have a complaint about any of the services that we have undertaken to provide to you in accordance with our written agreement, you may make a complaint to:
- the licensed immigration adviser handling your immigration matter; or
- if you would prefer to discuss the complaint with someone other than your licensed immigration adviser, you may contact [Name] at our office. [He/she] may be contacted by email at [Email Address], by telephone at [Telephone Number], or in writing at [Postal Address].
- We will send you an acknowledgement of the receipt of your complaint in writing within two (2) working days of receiving your complaint.
- We would be happy to meet with you at any time to discuss the nature of your complaint, so that we can attempt to resolve it fairly and promptly between ourselves. You can bring any support person you wish to have come with you to such a meeting.
- We are also happy to arrange a mediator to attend a meeting if you wish.
- We will formally reply to your complaint within 10 working days of meeting with you, or receiving the full details of your complaint.
- If you are not happy with our response to your complaint, and you feel that we have demonstrated one or more of the following grounds for complaint - negligence, incompetence, incapacity, dishonest and misleading behaviour, or have breached the Licensed Immigration Advisers Code of Conduct 2010 - you may send your complaint to the Immigration Advisers Authority (the Authority).
- Your complaint must be made to the Authority in writing and specify the ground or grounds that form the basis of your complaint against us. You can use the Complaint Form provided by the Authority to make a complaint. The grounds for complaint are further described in the Complaint Form which is available, together with other information on the complaints process, on the Immigration Advisers Authority website.
- Your complaint can be sent to the Authority at:
The Registrar of Immigration Advisers
Immigration Advisers Authority
52 Symonds Street, Grafton, Auckland
PO Box 6222, Wellesley Street,
Phone: 0508 422 422 (within New Zealand)
Phone: +64 9 925 3838 (outside New Zealand).