How to complain about an Insolvency Practitioner
By The Insolvency Service
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. 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)
- Insolvency Practitioners Association (IPA)
- Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)
- Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS)
- Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland (CAI)
This covers approximately 92% of all insolvency practitioners.
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, liquidator or supervisor of an individual voluntary arrangement or trust deed.
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 officeholder, even though you may not have had any contact with this individual.
3. Who does the Complaints Gateway not cover?
The Complaints Gateway does not cover complaints made against insolvency practitioners in relation to insolvency procedures governed by Northern Ireland legislation. These complaints need to be made directly to the relevant authorising body of the insolvency practitioner concerned.
Insolvency regulation in Northern Ireland is a devolved matter and is administered by DETI (Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment).
Any complaints related to Northern Irish insolvencies should be sent directly to the relevant authorising body or to DETI in the event the insolvency practitioner is directly authorised by DETI.
If a complaint relating to an insolvency practitioner acting in a Northern Ireland case is sent to the Complaints Gateway, it will be forwarded onto the relevant authorising body and you will be informed of this.
In addition, those insolvency practitioners authorised by the Solicitors Regulation Authority or by the Law Society of Scotland are not currently part of the Complaints Gateway.
4. Can I complain about the insolvency practitioner’s remuneration or other expenses to the Gateway?
Yes you can. However, any complaint about an insolvency practitioner’s remuneration or expenses can only be assessed from the perspective of whether the insolvency practitioner has committed misconduct by failing to follow the proper procedures for seeking authorisation of his fees or has taken fees over and above that for which he has obtained authorisation.
Legislation sets out the procedure for an insolvency practitioner to obtain approval for his/her remuneration and expenses and the procedure for challenging these which is usually by application to Court. The level of remuneration and expenses, such as the hourly rate charged by an insolvency practitioner is a commercial matter and is not something that would be considered by the Gateway.
5. 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.
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 he/she 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 we would recommend you take it up with them first. If you remain dissatisfied, there is a complaints procedure in place.
12. Who are the regulators?
The seven professional bodies recognised by the Secretary of State to authorise insolvency practitioners are as follows:
Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales
Professional Conduct Department
Metropolitan House, 321 Avebury Boulevard, Milton Keynes MK9 2FZ
Tel: 01908 248100 Fax: 01908 248088
Insolvency Practitioners Association
Head of Regulatory Operations
Valiant House, 4-10 Heneage Lane, London EC3A 5DQ
Tel: 020 7623 5108 Fax: 020 7623 5127
Association of Chartered Certified Accountants
Professional Conduct Department
29 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London WC2A 3BP
Tel: 020 7059 5993 Fax: 020 7059 5998
Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland
CA House, 21 Haymarket Yards, Edinburgh EH12 5BH
Tel: 0131 347 0100 Fax: 0131 347 0105
Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland - CARB
The Linen Hall, 32-38 Linen Hall Street, Belfast BT2 8BG
Tel: 028 9043 5858 Fax: is 028 9031 9320
Solicitors Regulation Authority – SRA 8 Dormer Place, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, CV32 5AE
Tel: 01926 820082 Fax: 01926 431435
Law Society of Scotland
The Law Society's Hall, 26 Drumsheugh Gardens, Edinburgh EH3 7YR
Tel: 0131 226 7411 Fax: 0131 225 2934
In addition, there are also insolvency practitioners who are authorised by the Secretary of State.
The Insolvency Service
Insolvency Practitioner Services
3rd Floor, Cannon House
18 Priory Queensway
Birmingham. B4 6FD
Tel : 0121 698 4180 Fax : 0121 689 4404
13. 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 and you will be taken through the same questions on the form 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 on 0300 678 0015.
You may find that you can resolve the issues relating to your complaint by contacting the insolvency practitioner concerned first. Template letter.
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.
14. 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.
15. 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.
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, it will pass the complaint onto 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 ten working days. The authorising body will then keep you advised of progress with your complaint.
Where matters raised are less serious, the authorising bodies (with the exception of the Secretary of State) 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 fifteen 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.
However, the authorising bodies have been working together on a ‘Common Sanctions’ guidance document which sets out the possible sanctions for various infringements/misconduct by the insolvency practitioner, which have been proven following an investigation by the authorising body.
This document has been produced to help complainants understand the type of sanction possible given any specific breach. It is important to note that this is only guidance.
These sanctions can be both financial and non-financial and the common sanctions guidance document can be accessed here.
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 fifteen working days of the decision being made.
21. What sanctions are available to the Secretary of State as authoriser?
The only sanction available to the Secretary of State as a direct authoriser is to remove an insolvency practitioner’s authorisation. As this will rarely be an appropriate sanction except in the most serious misconduct cases it is rarely used.
The Government is aware that the sanction tools available to the Secretary of State are not fit for purpose. Therefore as set out in December 2011 by Edward Davey, the then Minister for Employment Relations, Consumers and Postal Affairs, it remains the intention to remove the Secretary of State from the direct authorisation of insolvency practitioners when legislative time permits.
22. 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.
23. 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.
You will be charged for calls to the Insolvency Enquiry Helpline which is a 0845 number. Calls are typically charged at between 1p and 10.5p per minute depending on the time of day for landline customers, and often include a call set-up fee. Calls from mobile phones generally cost between 12p and 41p per minute. (Prices correct as of 18/07/2012). See an updated list of charges for 0845 numbers.
24. What can I do if I am unhappy with a decision made by the Gateway?
If you wish to make a complaint about how your case was administered by the Gateway, there is a procedure in place.
If your complaint is upheld, your complaint will be reconsidered by the Gateway.
Published February 2015