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How we deal with complaints

Here you can find out what happens when we first receive your complaint, how we decide if we can investigate it and what to expect if we do.

**Please note that we are currently updating the Step Two and Three guides to reflect our new operational structure.**

To find out more about any of the steps in our process, follow the links below, download our simple guide How we look into complaints (PDF 195KB) or call us on 0345 015 4033. 

You can also find our Service Charter here. It explains the commitments we make to you when you ask us to look into your complaint.

You can give us feedback on our service at any point by contacting our Review and Feedback Team. They can also help you if you think we've made the wrong decision on your complaint and you would like us to review it.

If you haven't complained to us yet, have a look at our Making a complaint page where you can find out how to do that and what steps you may need to take first.

Step 1 When we first receive your complaint

What happens?

First we do some initial checks to make sure we can deal with your complaint. This includes checking that:

  • We can look into the organisation and issue you're complaining about
  • You have been through the organisation's own complaints process already

How long does this take?

We aim to complete these checks within five working days.

What can we decide?

If we can deal with your complaint, we'll let you know and refer it on to step two. We receive over 29,000 complaints a year and just over 25% are taken forward to this step.

If we can't take your complaint forward, we'll give you information about what you can do next. This is how we help almost 75% of the people who contact us, and includes giving advice about how to complain to the organisation you're unhappy with, if you haven't done this already.

To find out more about this step in our process, download our guide: What happens when you first contact us (PDF 298KB).

Step 2 Deciding whether to investigate your complaint

What happens?

We take a closer look at your complaint to decide if we should investigate. We look at several things, including:

  • whether you have been affected personally by what happened
  • whether you complained (to us or an MP) within a year of knowing about the issue
  • whether you have (or had) the option of taking legal action instead
  • whether there are signs that the organisation potentially got things wrong that have had a negative effect on you that hasn't been put right

How long does this take?

We aim to give you our decision within 20 working days of receiving your complaint.

What can we decide?

If we decide we should investigate your complaint, we will let you know what will happen next.

We consider over 8,000 complaints a year at this step. We go on to investigate around half of these.

If we decide not to investigate your complaint, we will explain why. If there are other options open to you, we will let you know what these are.

To find out more about this step in our process, download our guide: Deciding whether to investigate (PDF 257KB).

Step 3 Investigating your complaint

What happens?

We'll talk to you about your concerns and what we're going to investigate. We'll tell you how long we think our investigation will take and we'll keep you regularly updated. We'll gather all the information we need, including from you and the organisation you have complained about, before we make our final decision on your complaint.

How long does this take?

We aim to complete most of our investigations within three to six months. Some take longer than this, but we aim to complete 98% within a year.

What can we decide?

If we uphold your complaint it means that we found the organisation got things wrong that have had a negative effect on you that hasn't been put right. We can recommend what the organisation should do about this.

We investigate around 4,000 complaints a year and uphold, in full or in part, around 40%.

To find out more about this step in our process, download our guide: What happens when we investigate (PDF 107KB).