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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/insolvency-practitioners-guidance-for-those-who-want-to-complain/insolvency-practitioners-guidance-on-how-to-complain-about-an-insolvency-practitioner
1. Who can complain?
Anyone who is dissatisfied with the conduct of a person authorised as an insolvency practitioner with regards to their professional work in Great Britain or with the conduct of others carrying out such work on that person’s behalf. People who can complain include (but are not restricted to):
- directors or shareholders of a company
2. What complaints cannot be considered by the Gateway?
Insolvency practitioners, by the very nature of the work they undertake, deal with a number of conflicting interests and the authorising bodies cannot intervene in or adjudicate upon disputes of a commercial or legal nature. Ultimately, it is for the Courts to adjudicate upon commercial disputes and disagreements about the application of insolvency law and making a complaint should not be seen as a substitute to the remedies available to individuals through the Courts.
We would recommend that you consider seeking independent professional advice before exercising any recourse to the Court or before bringing a negligence claim against an insolvency practitioner. We are unable to provide you with advice in this regard.
3. Who does the Complaints Gateway cover?
The Complaints Gateway covers complaints against insolvency practitioners acting in their capacity as an insolvency practitioner on a particular insolvency procedure.
You may make a complaint against an insolvency practitioner authorised by any of the following Recognised Professional Bodies (RPBs), as well as those authorised by the Secretary of State:
- Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW): http://www.icaew.com
- Insolvency Practitioners Association (IPA): http://www.ipa.uk.com
- Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA): http://www.accaglobal.com
- Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS): http://www.icas.org.uk
- Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland (CAI): http://www.carb.ie
The role of the authorising body will be to investigate any complaints referred to them by the Gateway and issue sanctions against insolvency practitioners where appropriate. The complaints process however does not provide any mechanism of redress for the complainant.
All insolvency appointments are personal to the individual. This means that a complaint would be directed against the insolvency practitioner acting as an office holder such as an administrator, trustee in bankruptcy, trustee in trust deed, liquidator or supervisor of an individual voluntary arrangement. If your complaint relates to the associated firm or company, or to a member of staff who has been dealing with the case then the complaint would usually be considered in relation to the office holder, even though you may not have had any contact with this individual.
4. Does the Complaints Gateway cover complaints about solicitors?
If your complaint is in connection with the solicitor’s appointment under the Insolvency Act 1986 then they will be authorised by one of the RPBs referred to above and complaints should be made using the Complaints Gateway. The Law Society of England and Wales no longer authorises solicitors who wish to act as an insolvency practitioner.
If your complaint is specifically in relation to the legal services provided to you by the solicitor then you should contact the Legal Ombudsman. More information.
5. Can I complain about the insolvency practitioner’s remuneration or other expenses to the Gateway?
5.1 Remuneration and expenses authorised before 1 October 2015:
Complaints concerning an insolvency practitioner’s remuneration or expenses can only be assessed if they involve a failure to follow the correct processes for charging or obtaining authorisation of fees or they have taken fees over and above that for which they have obtained authorisation.
The Gateway is unable to consider complaints concerning the level of an insolvency practitioner’s remuneration or expenses if the fee or fees involved were authorised before 1 October 2015.
5.2 Remuneration and expenses authorised after 1 October 2015:
As a result of changes to legislation, from 1 October 2015, the Gateway will be able to consider new complaints which allege that fees charged by an insolvency practitioner after this date are unfair or unreasonable.
This change only applies to fees issued in connection with insolvency appointments in England and Wales. The Gateway is unable to consider complaints which concern the level of fees charged by insolvency practitioners for appointments in Scotland. Separate legislation applies to Scottish insolvency cases, with debtors and creditors having other means to challenge an insolvency practitioner’s remuneration or expenses. Guidance in this respect is available through R3 (the Association of Business Recovery Professionals) or the Accountant in Bankruptcy.
Under new regulatory objectives, the authorising bodies will be expected to encourage the charging of fees that are fair and reasonable in general. In addition, new rules (which apply in bankruptcy, administration and most liquidation cases) require insolvency practitioners to provide upfront estimates of their fees for creditors’ approval and they will not be allowed to take extra fees unless agreed by creditors.
The Gateway will still consider complaints about the procedures for agreeing fees, including in relation to fee estimates. More generally, the authorising bodies will also be obliged to assess whether fees are generally appropriate in the circumstances of a particular case; for example, in relation to the amount and type of work carried out to administer the insolvency, including the realisation of assets and payments made to creditors. Before complaining about an insolvency practitioner’s remuneration and expenses, you should consider whether:
- the fees charged are within the estimate given by the insolvency practitioner
- the insolvency practitioner could provide more information, in which case you should first contact the practitioner or his firm to give them an opportunity to address your concern before making a complaint
- you have exercised any rights to challenge fees under the insolvency legislation, e.g. through an application to Court
- the information provided by the insolvency practitioner explains how the fees have been calculated
- the report from the insolvency practitioner refers to a creditors’ or liquidation committee, in which case you may wish to contact one or more of the committee members for further information
In order for the Gateway to consider your complaint about the level of an insolvency practitioner’s fees you will need to provide some information and evidence to explain why you believe the fee is unfair or unreasonable. In addition, you should submit all reports or other documents you have received from the insolvency practitioner in connection with the fee.
It is important to understand that the complaints process is not a substitute for any formal means to challenge an insolvency practitioner’s fee. If your complaint is ultimately upheld by the authorising body, this will not result in any amendment of the fee, nor will any fine imposed by the authorising body be paid to you as the complainant.
6. Can I complain about an order made by the Court?
No. If your complaint is about an order made by the Court – for example, you consider that you should not have been made bankrupt or your company should not have been wound up – you should either seek legal advice or approach the Court direct which will explain the procedure for the matter to be reconsidered. You should be aware however that there are statutory time limits to appeal against orders or findings of the Court.
7. Can I complain about the legislation?
If you wish to complain about the legislation and how it affects you, then you should write to the relevant minister or to your local Member of Parliament so that they can raise it with the minister.
8. Can I make a complaint via the Gateway if my complaint has previously been assessed and fully considered by the appropriate authorising body?
No. If you have a complaint which has previously been assessed and fully considered by the authorising body, then it will not be considered again by the Complaints Gateway unless you can provide new information in support of your complaint.
9. The insolvency practitioner I wish to complain about is no longer licensed; can I still make a complaint?
Yes you can still complain. This may restrict the sanctions available to the authorising body in the event of a finding against the insolvency practitioner.
10. Can I make a complaint about Insolvency Service staff?
Yes. The Insolvency Service is keen to provide as professional and helpful a service as possible. If you are unhappy with the service you receive from the Insolvency Service, you should contact us. A manager will contact you and will look into your complaint.
11. Can I complain about the official receiver?
This system is solely designed for complaints against insolvency practitioners. If you have a complaint against an official receiver you should take it up with them first. If you remain dissatisfied, there is a complaints procedure in place.
12. How do I make a complaint?
The simplest way to make a complaint is by completing the online complaints form. This can be emailed or sent by post to the Complaints Gateway.
If you have difficulty accessing the online complaints form you can also make your complaint through the Insolvency Service Enquiry Line - email email@example.com or telephone: 0300 678 0015 and you will be taken through the same questions over the phone.
As part of the complaint, you will need to name the insolvency practitioner you wish to complain about. The insolvency practitioner may not be the same person who you have had dealings with in the insolvency. Some insolvency cases have joint office holders. In these cases it is important to list all of the office holders. You can find the name of all insolvency practitioners, including the name of their authorising body here, or by contacting the Insolvency Service Enquiry Line.
You may find that you can resolve the issues relating to your complaint by contacting the insolvency practitioner concerned first – a standard letter is available. It is also very helpful to provide us with a copy of any letter of complaint and response from the insolvency practitioner or firm or any other documents you consider relevant.
13. Can I get help with completing the form?
If you require any assistance in completing a complaint form, or have any questions about the form, please contact a member of our enquiry line team on 0300 678 0015.
14. Who will consider my complaint?
A member of the Insolvency Service’s staff will undertake the initial review of the complaint and decide whether the nature of your complaint is such that it falls within the scope of complaints suitable to be forwarded onto the authorising bodies. This will be based on the information you provide on the complaints form and any supporting evidence. If the complaint is forwarded on to the insolvency practitioner’s authorising body, a member of the regulatory team of the authorising body will conduct further enquiries.
15. What evidence do I need to provide to support my complaint?
In most cases, the authorising body will only be able to uphold your complaint if you are able to provide evidence which supports the allegations you have made against the insolvency practitioner.
It will help speed up the investigation by the authorising body if you could provide all evidence (for example letters, documents and correspondence with the insolvency practitioner or their staff) that you believe is available to support your complaint.
16. Can I send my complaint direct to the appropriate authorising body?
No. All complaints about insolvency practitioners should come through the Complaints Gateway. If a complaint is inadvertently sent direct to an authorising body, they will forward it onto the Complaints Gateway.
17. What happens after I make a complaint to the Gateway?
A member of the Complaints Gateway’s staff will consider your complaint and if it relates to an activity or behaviour which may result in the insolvency practitioner being liable to disciplinary action, they will pass the complaint on to the relevant authorising body for further consideration. For instance there must be an indication of a breach of the insolvency legislation, Statements of Insolvency Practice, RPB regulations and guidance or code of ethics. The allegations should be capable of being supported with evidence. You will normally be informed whether or not your complaint is being passed to the relevant authorising body within 15 working days of the Gateway receiving your complaint.
A referral of a complaint by the Gateway onto an authorising body for further consideration does not indicate that an insolvency practitioner is liable to disciplinary action.
It means that the Insolvency Service has assessed the complaint as being suitable for further enquiry by the authorising body of the insolvency practitioner. No detailed investigation has taken place at that stage. In the event of a referral, the authorising body will send a written acknowledgement to you within 10 working days. The authorising body will then keep you advised of progress with your complaint.
Where matters raised are less serious, the authorising bodies may facilitate a conciliated resolution between yourself and the insolvency practitioner. A settlement in such cases could for example involve an answer to a letter or an apology.
On the conclusion of the assessment or investigation of your complaint, the authorising body will send a letter to you within 15 working days setting out:
(i) the findings in respect of the complaint; and (ii) an indication of proposed further action, if any.
The authorising body will include details of options which may be available should you be dissatisfied with the body’s findings.
18. What outcome can I expect if my complaint is upheld?
Each case is different and even if your complaint is valid, it should be noted that not all errors automatically mean an insolvency practitioner is liable to disciplinary action, e.g. failure to deal with a small amount of correspondence will not necessarily result in action against the insolvency practitioner.
The Common Sanctions guidance sets out the possible sanctions for various infringements/misconduct by the insolvency practitioner, which have been proven following an investigation by the authorising body. It aims to provide transparency and ensures that, if the findings against an insolvency practitioner are consistent, the outcome and sanction across the authorising bodies are comparable. All of the bodies that are part of the Gateway are implementing the Common Sanctions Guidance.
This document has been produced to help complainants understand the type of sanction possible given any specific breach. It is important to note however that this is only guidance. Where there is a deviation from the guidance the authorising bodies will be expected to explain this with a reference to any aggravating or mitigating factors considered
Sanctions can be both financial and non-financial and a common sanctions guidance document is available.
19. How long will it take to resolve my complaint?
The authorising bodies aim to have substantially completed the investigation of a complaint within six months, although an investigation may take longer due to a number of factors, such as the complexity of the case and the level of cooperation from the parties involved. You can expect to receive an update on the progress of the investigation.
20. How will I know the outcome of my complaint?
If a complaint is considered for further enquiry by the insolvency practitioner’s authorising body, they will advise you of the outcome. This will be within 15 working days of the decision being made.
21. Will I receive any compensation if my complaint is upheld?
No. The authorising body cannot award or compel an insolvency practitioner to pay you compensation for any financial loss you consider you may have suffered.
If you believe that you have suffered a financial loss as a result of negligence by an insolvency practitioner you should pursue your own legal remedies.
22. Does it cost anything to make a complaint to the Complaints Gateway?
The Insolvency Service does not charge you a fee for considering complaints through the Gateway. The authorising bodies also will not charge you a fee in the event that a complaint is passed through to them.
23. What can I do if I am unhappy with a decision made by the Gateway?
If you are unhappy with the decision made by the Gateway you can appeal and have the decision reviewed by Insolvency Practitioner Regulation Section, a separate department within the Insolvency Service.
You will be informed of the outcome of your appeal together with a letter detailing the review of your case within 10 working days of receipt of your appeal.
If your appeal is upheld, your complaint will be then referred to the authorising body concerned.
You can submit an appeal directly by contacting: IPRegulation.Section@insolvency.gsi.gov.uk or 0207 291 6771.
If you wish to make a complaint about how your case was administered by the Gateway, or remain dissatisfied following any appeal, there is a formal procedure.
24. What can I do if I am unhappy with the decision made by the authorising body?
If you are unhappy with the decision made by the authorising body, you may be able to ask for the decision to be reviewed. The authorising body will provide details of how to request such a review, as appropriate.
25. What if I want to complain about how the authorising body handled my complaint?
If you are unhappy with the manner in which your complaint was dealt with by the authorising body, you can make a complaint to Insolvency Practitioner Regulation Section, which acts as oversight regulator for each of the authorising bodies on behalf of the Secretary of State.
Any complaint should be made in writing to IP Regulation Section, The Insolvency Service, 4 Abbey Orchard Street, London, SW1P 2HT or by email to IPRegulation.Section@insolvency.gsi.gov.uk.
We will only consider your complaint once you have exhausted the complaints process of the relevant authorising body.
When writing to us, please include:
- your name and address
- the name of the authorising body
- the name of the insolvency practitioner(s) concerned
- the name of the bankrupt or insolvent company, including the court reference if known
- details of what has led to the complaint
- copies of any correspondence or documents about your complaint
26. What will happen next?
We aim to acknowledge your complaint within 5 working days of receiving it.
We will carry out an initial assessment of your complaint and inform you whether this is something we can take forward within 20 working days of receiving your complaint. We may need to contact you for further information.
We will usually reach a final decision within 3 months although this may take longer in some cases. We will keep you informed of progress and when you can expect a final decision.
We will contact the regulator to investigate your complaint. This may include reviewing files and other relevant information, and meetings with the authorising body.
Please note that we will share a copy of your complaint with the authorising body unless you specifically request that we do not do this.
27. What action will you take?
We will inform you of our final decision. If we uphold your complaint, we may make recommendations to the authorising body to amend their procedures in future. Such recommendations are taken very seriously by the authorising bodies.
We will not generally intervene directly in an ongoing complaint about an insolvency practitioner or compel either the practitioner or the regulator concerned to take a particular course of action. However, the Secretary of State does have a range of powers that can be used to give a direction, publicly reprimand or impose a fine on an authorising body, or to take action through the court to sanction an insolvency practitioner. These powers are only likely to be used in exceptional circumstances; for example, where they would protect the public interest.
We will not be able to intervene in individual insolvency cases as an alternative to any legal actions or disputes that are matters for the court. You may wish to seek independent legal advice on the options available to you.