If a client complains about you, you will follow your complaints procedure, which you must have in place as a direction of the rules. The client must receive a full service through the complaints procedure as though they were instructing you.
Important things to consider:
- You cannot charge for the time in dealing with the complaint, it is a service that you must offer.
- If you do not respond to the satisfaction of the client or you do not do so within eight weeks, the client can go to the legal ombudsman service. If their complaint is accepted and held against you the ombudsman can order up to £30,000 compensation to be paid to the client or set an order that you do alternatives – such as return documents. There will be a charge for their service that you will have to pay which is £400.
- Not to comply with the ombudsman’s determination is a reporting offence to the SRA.
- The ombudsman can only assess client care complaints, any other breaches or allegations will find their way to the SRA.
When a complaint is made, the SRA caseworker will assess the merits of the complaint. If they believe it is valid they will write to you and ask for information.
Important things to consider:
- At this stage, the SRA already have an indication of what they require and they will request it.
- You will be given a short time to respond but you can extend that time if you need to. For example, you may be in a trial during the time you are given which would not enable you to locate and prepare a response.
- You must ask for the extra time within the time you have been given and certainly do it at your earliest opportunity.
- There may be several requests for information as the investigation team assess what information and documents you have provided.
- If there is a valid complaint against you the sooner you accept that and start to deal with the consequences the better. A good history of cooperation and honesty is paramount in this scenario and will speed up the process of the investigation and any discipline that might come as a result.
- If you have knowingly broken the law or not fulfilled any outcomes you are expected to, inform the SRA about it before anyone else which is always better done through a prepared statement that we can assist with.
Try to remain calm when dealing with a complaint – even if the client becomes irate or confrontational. Your ultimate aim is to turn their negative experience into a positive one, but arguing back will only make the situation worse.
Complaints should always be resolved as quickly as possible. The aim is to make the client feel as though their problem is being treated as a priority, without being rushed.
Keep comprehensive records of all client complaints, from the initial problem to the eventual solution. You can then periodically assess these records, identifying any common complaints, and taking steps to improve company processes.
All client-facing staff members should be trained to deal with complaints. If possible, give your employees some authority when it comes to issuing refunds or other consolatory gestures. Forcing the client to wait for a manager can make a bad situation worse.
Contact us without delay to seek specialised legal advice to protect your interest and safeguard your practice.
It is essential that a well experienced and professional team is instructed at the earliest time, even before the SRA contact you if you know there are issues. This will allow for the matter to be handled in a more relaxed, controlled and professional way. The sooner you have a team that will manage the conduct of the process, the less draconian the entire procedure is.
Support and guidance with every stage
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