Complaints procedure

How to make a complaint about the Marine Management Organisation’s service.

Our customer complaints procedure

How you can complain about the service you get from the Marine Management Organisation (MMO).

About MMO complaints

We are committed to our customer charter and providing a professional service to everyone that we deal with. To enable this, we need you to tell us when we get things wrong.

We define complaints as any expression of dissatisfaction about the service provided to you. We will listen to your complaints, treat them seriously and where things go wrong learn from this so that we can continuously improve our service.

You can contact us about any aspect of the service you’ve received from us, including:

  • mistakes that have been made
  • unreasonable delays
  • how you’ve been treated
  • not being kept informed

We will not investigate complaints:

  • about government policy or law
  • that have already been investigated or are currently being investigated by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman
  • that are, or have been, subject to legal proceedings

How to make a complaint

If you’d like to complain about any aspect of the service you’ve received from us, let the office you have been dealing with know as soon as possible. We’ll do our best to put things right.

You can contact us by email or in writing. When you contact us, please tell us:

  • your full name and preferred method of contact
  • which area of the MMO you are complaining about
  • what happened, when it happened and how it affected you
  • what you want to happen to put things right

You can send an email to or in writing to MMO Complaints, Lancaster House, Hampshire Court, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE4 7YH.

The three tiers of our complaints procedure

Our complaint procedure contains three stages of escalation.

Tier One

This is the first opportunity for MMO to resolve your complaint and most complaints can be resolved at this point. Upon receipt, we will contact the relevant team and ask them to deal with your complaint.

Where possible, we will attempt to resolve your concerns by phone and will follow up all conversations in writing.

Tier Two

If you are dissatisfied with the initial response you may request a review by an appropriate senior lead within the relevant team. Please explain the full details of why you consider that your complaint has not been addressed at tier one, and we will carry out an investigation into your concerns.

Tier Three

If after tier two you are not satisfied you can ask any Member of Parliament to refer complaints about administrative actions by the MMO to the Parliamentary Ombudsman (also known as the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration).

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman
Millbank Tower

Complaints helpline: 0345 015 4033 Fax: 020 7217 4000 Email: Website:

If your complaint relates to a breach of environmental law, you can escalate your complaint to the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP).

The two most common ways in which a public authority could fail to comply with environmental law are:

  • failing to take proper account of environmental law when carrying out its activities, for example not carrying out an environmental impact assessment
  • unlawfully exercising, or failing to exercise, any activities it has to carry out under environmental law, for example not properly regulating environmentally harmful activities it is responsible for licensing

Office for Environmental Protection
Worcestershire County Hall
Spetchley Road

Complaints helpline: 03300 416 581 Email: Website:

Timescales for handling complaints

Tier 1 - maximum 20 working days

  • acknowledgement within 5 working days
  • full response within 20 working days

Tier 2 - maximum 20 working days

  • acknowledgement within 5 working days
  • full response within 20 working days

Extending the time limits

We aim to complete all complaints within the timescales above; however, if a complaint is very complex it may occasionally be necessary to extend the time limit. If this is the case, we will keep you informed of progress with the investigation, the reasons for the delay, and the new deadline.

Unreasonable customer contact

We aim to provide a professional service on every occasion to all our customers. Our customer charter sets out our commitment to the level of service we will provide. In return, we expect our customers to behave appropriately and treat our employees with courtesy, consideration, and respect, to allow them to carry out their work.

We recognise that sometimes things can go wrong and might need to be put right. Our complaint procedure covers how we handle complaints and where necessary, what actions we take to put things right.

There will also be a small number of cases where we consider a customer, either individually or as part of a group, might be behaving in ways that we consider are inappropriate and unreasonable, despite our efforts to help.

Principles and Aims

This policy provides clarity for our colleagues and customers what is expected of them, what they can do, who can authorise actions and how to respond to these situations.

It also enables us to deal with unreasonable customer behaviour consistently and professionally, outlining the steps we may take to deal with such behaviours.

What is considered unreasonable behaviour?

It is difficult to produce a comprehensive list of actions we consider to be unreasonable, and cases should always be considered on their own specific merits. However, we would generally categorise unreasonable and unacceptable behaviour under two main headings.

Unreasonably persistent or vexatious contact

This consists of contact (written or verbal) which we consider places an unreasonable demand on our colleague’s time.

For example, customers who:

  1. Persist in pursuing a matter when they have already exhausted other statutory routes of appeal.
  2. Do not clearly identify the precise issues which they wish to be investigated, despite reasonable efforts to help them specify their concerns.
  3. Continue to seek to pursue an issue, including complaints, where the concerns identified are not within the remit of the MMO and this has been previously explained.
  4. Persist in pursuing a complaint where our complaints procedure has been fully and properly implemented and exhausted
  5. Change in the substance of a complaint or continually raise new issues or seek to prolong contact by continually raising further concerns or questions upon receipt of a response.
  6. Remain unwilling to accept documented evidence of action despite previous engagement.
  7. Remain unwilling to accept that the MMO has reached a final decision on a chosen course of action.
  8. Deny receiving an adequate response despite previously issued correspondence specifically answering their questions
  9. Focus on trivial matters to an extent which is out of proportion to its significance and continue to focus on this point.
  10. Have has an excessive number of contacts with the MMO placing unreasonable demands on our time and resources.
  11. Adopting a ‘scatter gun’ approach. This includes pursuing parallel complaints, or other contact, on the same issue with a variety of individuals and/or teams within the MMO.

Aggressive or unacceptable behaviour

This consists of behaviour (written or verbal) that might intimidate, bully, harass or offend our employees.

For example:

  1. Secretly recording meetings and conversations without advance warning.
  2. Making malicious or unjustified allegations about MMO colleagues and/or using abusive, offensive or threatening language.
  3. Any comments relating to disability, religion, belief, perceived gender of other protected characteristic.
  4. Submitting falsified documents from themselves to assist any case against the MMO.
  5. Making threatening contact, either in person, via telephone or email.
  6. Any form of physical violence, including threats to carry this out.
  7. Any form of derogatory racial, ageist, homophobic and/or sexist remarks.

Actions that may be taken

Before any action is taken the customer will be provided with a warning and directed to a copy of this policy. This is to provide them with an opportunity to correct their behaviour.

If the unreasonable behaviour continues, action will be taken that is considered to be proportionate to the nature and frequency of the customers contact. This will be set out in writing to the customer and the reasons for any action will be clearly explained.

The following action may be taken, taking the specific behaviour and circumstances into account:

  1. Placing limits on the number and duration of contacts with colleagues per week or month.
  2. Only addressing correspondence sent by the customer in writing and to
  3. Banning a customer from visiting any MMO office except by appointment.
  4. Letting a customer know that the MMO will no longer reply to or acknowledge any further contact from them on a specific topic.
  5. Where an ongoing service is being provided to the customer, limiting this to the legal minimum required only.
  6. Refusing to register and process any further contact from a customer altogether, including complaints.
  7. Taking legal action against a customer where appropriate.


All MMO customers have the right of review, and this will be set out in any decision letter.

Request for a review must be made in writing, including by email, within two weeks of the date of notification of the decision made under the policy.

We will respond to all appeals within 20 working days of receipt of the request for a review.

When we will review existing decisions to apply policy

There will be a review of existing decisions to apply the policy every 12 months.

Limits will be lifted, and relationships returned to normal, unless there are good grounds to extend them.

We will inform customer of the outcome of the review. If limits are to continue, we must explain the reasons and state when the limits will next be reviewed.

You can access a PDF copy of our unreasonable customer behaviour policy at this link: MMO Unreasonable customer behaviour policy - March 2022 (PDF, 703 KB, 4 pages)

Complaints against an MMO appointee to an Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authority (IFCA)

Complaints against an MMO appointee should be directed to the Chair of the IFCA (or MMO representative to the IFCA if the complaint is about the Chair).

In the first instance, the IFCA will deal with any complaint. If the IFCA Chair decides that the appointee has broken their terms and conditions of appointment the IFCA will contact the MMO, who will investigate, and if necessary, terminate the membership of the appointee.

If a complainant does not feel that the IFCA has addressed their concerns satisfactorily, they should contact the MMO at

Any evidence to support the concerns raised should be included. The MMO will then investigate, and if necessary, terminate the membership of the appointee.

Complaints against an IFCA

We are not responsible for the overall conduct of IFCAs. An IFCA is a committee of a local authority, or a joint committee of several local authorities. IFCAs also report against high level objectives set by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Complaints against the overall conduct of an IFCA should be directed, in the following order, to:

  1. the Chair of the IFCA
  2. the sponsoring body in the relevant local authority
  3. the Local Government Ombudsman

The complainant should also inform the MMO of any complaint relating to structural or systematic issues with the IFCAs, which the Communications Team will pass on to the IFCA sponsorship team in Defra.