Each year, Citizens Advice Stockport helps thousands of people with issues they are facing. However, we acknowledge that every so often we get things wrong and someone goes away feeling unhappy.
Perhaps you felt you had to wait too long for an appointment, you were treated unfairly or quite simply we provided you with there wrong information or advice.
Unfortunately, things do sometimes happen which is why we have a complaints procedure in place to ensure clients can air their concerns. From this, we can make changes so that others don’t feel the same way but sometimes, we can only apologise and explain our selves. But we do learn from our mistakes and what you tell us helps us improve our service.
All information you share with us is treated seriously and confidential.
Before the formal stages begin, our aim is to return the client to the advice process or otherwise resolve their complaint as smoothly as possible. It is not always possible to consider informal resolution, depending on the nature of the complaint.
Informal resolution may include:
- an apology
- an explanation by a senior manager
- referral to another agency
- making an appointment.
The first aim of this stage is to acknowledge the complaint and explain how it will be dealt with. All complaints will be acknowledged within 5 working days of receipt.
The second aim of this stage is to investigate what went wrong and provide a full response to the complainant within 8 weeks.
After the investigation, you will receive a response to the complainant.
A complainant may escalate their complaint to be reviewed under the direction of the Chief Executive of Citizens Advice.
The aims of the review are to check:
- the local Citizens Advice has followed the complaints process
- the local Citizens Advice has adequately addressed all issues raised by the complainant
- was the investigation carried out in a fair and transparent fashion?
- is there a need for continued or additional advice?
- were the conclusions reached fair and reasonable and is there sufficient evidence to support them?
When Citizens Advice receives a request for a review, they will acknowledge it within 5 working days and ask the local Citizens Advice to send a copy of the client's file, which must include letters, emails and notes of the investigations carried out at earlier stages.
The Citizens Advice review will not usually comment on the advice that was given, although it may comment on the advice process followed.
The final stage in the Citizens Advice complaints process is a review conducted by an adjudicator who has no connection with the Citizens Advice service other than this particular role. The local Citizens Advice will be advised that an independent adjudicator review has begun. The independent adjudicator, once informed, will conduct a review of the investigation.
The request for an independent adjudicator review should be made by the client within 4 weeks of receiving the Citizens Advice review. Requests submitted outside of this period will be considered as a reasonable adjustment or if there are extenuating circumstances.
The adjudicator may contact the client and / or the local Citizens Advice during this review, for further information. This review will only address whether the investigation so far has been conducted in line with stated procedures and whether it has been handled fairly. The adjudicator will not comment on the substance of the complaint.
If the adjudicator finds that the stated procedure was not followed or that the matter has not been handled fairly, they will specify why and may give directions for a re-investigation.
Citizens Advice will send the full report of the independent adjudicator to the complainant and the chair of the trustee board. The decision of the independent adjudicator is final in most cases, although discussion may continue between the local Citizens Advice, Citizens Advice and the client as to how exactly any recommendations might be implemented.
Citizens Advice advises complainants who wish to escalate their complaint to the adjudicator that the independent adjudicator review stage does not have a fixed deadline, unlike the earlier stages.
The Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) usually settles complaints based on the paperwork that the complainant and the local Citizens Advice send them. If telephone call recordings are available then FOS will want to access these.
Generally, FOS will first try to settle a dispute informally through mediation or conciliation. If it is not possible to resolve the matter over the phone, FOS will confirm their position in writing. This will give the FOS adjudicator's opinion of the case and set out how, in the adjudicator's view, the case should be resolved.
The adjudicator may issue a formal 'adjudication' report, which is sent to both parties at the same time. The local Citizens Advice and the complainant would both be given the opportunity to respond.