Make a Complaint

The following outlines how you make a complaint about one of our members and the IPA’s process for dealing with that complaint.

We act in the public interest and seek to ensure that our members act with integrity and undertake work to high standards. If an Insolvency Practitioner (IP) is a member of the IPA and allegedly commits misconduct, the IPA is interested to know about it. It is important for the IPA to receive feedback on the performance of IPs since this assists us in maintaining standards.

Remember, we can only get involved if the individual or firm is a member of the IPA.

What can I complain about?

You can complain about an IP’s conduct in the last three years, or more than three years ago if you first found evidence of the issue within the past three years. However, the complaint cannot relate to a disagreement that arises in trade or commerce or a dispute about legal rights or legal obligations. These matters should be dealt with by the courts.

A complaint must be intended to bring about an improvement in the IP’s performance and not simply as a tactic to pursue personal vested interests.

Before you make a complaint

In many cases, issues can be resolved by talking to the IP. A large proportion of insolvency complaints arise due to a breakdown in communication between the IP and the person complaining. In most cases, the IP or their firm will have an internal complaints procedure and, if you wish to complain, you are encouraged to try to resolve the complaint directly with the IP where possible. This will often be a quicker method of resolving your complaint.

How to complain

If you find you are still unable to resolve the problem, or if it is not appropriate for you to contact the IP (e.g. in instances of fraud), your next step is to file a complaint via the Insolvency Service Gateway.

When we receive a complaint

The Insolvency Service Gateway will assess a complaint and if it considers the complaint requires further consideration by the IPA, the complaint will be forwarded to the IPA.

The person who submits the complaint is referred to by the IPA as the Informant. This is because they are providing information to the IPA which enables it to perform its regulatory duties concerning IPs.

The facts are considered by our Regulatory Investigations team, which seeks to establish the nature of the Informant’s complaint and whether there might have been misconduct. This will usually require communication with the Informant and with the IP. The team will establish whether there are reasonable grounds for considering disciplinary action against the IP.

Disciplinary action will only be justified where there is evidence that a serious breach of professional duty has occurred. Minor errors of judgment, acts of negligence and innocent mistakes are not necessarily misconduct; nor are inefficiency and incompetence unless it is so serious or so discreditable as to bring an IP, the IPA, or the profession more generally, into disrepute. 

If it is decided that there are no grounds for the complaint to proceed, we shall explain the position to the Informant. If the Informant disagrees with this outcome, they may request a review of the decision.

If in their dealings with the Regulatory Investigations team a person behaves in a way that is unreasonable or vexatious, we will follow this policy.

Disciplinary action

If we believe there are grounds for formal disciplinary action, we shall present the IP with one or more formal allegations. The allegation(s) can then be considered by the IPA’s Regulation and Conduct Committee (R&CC). If the R&CC is satisfied that there is a case of misconduct, it will either ask the IP to agree to a sanction via a process known as a consent order or, for less serious matters, will issue a warning letter. The R&CC may decide that the matter needs to be heard by a Disciplinary Tribunal. This would happen for more serious complaints or if the IP fails to respond to, or accept, the consent order offered by the R&CC. Disciplinary Tribunals are heard by members of the IPA’s Disciplinary and Appeals Committee (D&AC).

The two Committees explained

The R&CC and the D&AC form the two tiers of the IPA’s regulatory Committees. They are responsible for decision-making on matters relating to Insolvency Practitioners’ conduct, including disciplinary action.

Both Committees are composed of IPs and lay members. The R&CC operates with a lay majority at meetings, and Tribunals are carried out with two IPs and one lay member. An independent legal assessor, who takes no part in the decision-making, is also present at a Tribunal.

What kind of sanctions can the IPA issue?

The Committees have various powers to sanction IPs, including making a finding with no further action and issuing non-financial and financial penalties. The IPA and its Committees have no express power to make an IP or firm pay compensation. However, its Committees may order the IP to pay the IPA’s costs incurred during the investigation and adjudication of a complaint.

How long does it take to resolve a complaint?

Complaints received by the IPA are acknowledged within ten working days. As the Informant, you may expect regular correspondence until the complaint is resolved. The majority of complaints are resolved within three to six months. Very occasionally, some complaints will take longer to conclude.

The time needed to resolve a complaint is impacted by the complexity of the complaint and the level of communication required with the parties. We also rely on timely communications being received from the parties. We must also ensure that disciplinary processes are undertaken properly and, therefore, matters that progress to a Tribunal will exceed these guidelines.

Useful resources

IPA complaints guidance leaflet

Regulation Investigation Code for Informants

IPA Governing Documents

Memorandum of Understanding between the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Recognised Professional Bodies as regards the Provision of a Complaints Gateway