Complaints information for ICAS Members
Most Members will not be faced with the prospect of having a complaint lodged against them but when it does happen, ICAS recognises that it can be a daunting experience.
Many complaints could, however, be avoided if the Member had addressed matters at an early stage and adopted a co-operative approach when dealing with the complainer and with ICAS. You may wish to contact the Investigations Department for a discussion if you consider it likely that a complaint may be lodged against you.
Dealing with a complaint
In terms of the Investigation Regulations, if a Member Firm receives a complaint from a client or former client concerning any services it has provided or failed to provide, then it is the responsibility of the firm to ensure that a principal investigates the matter.
If the complainer remains dissatisfied at the conclusion of the investigation then the complainer should be informed in writing of their right to bring their complaint to the attention of ICAS.
There will be circumstances where it is possible for a Member and a complainer to resolve a disagreement without the need for ICAS to carry out a formal investigation of a complaint.
ICAS refers to complaints resolved in this manner as having been 'conciliated'. Further information on this process can be found in our Conciliation Guidance.
Failure to respond
The Investigation Committee is increasingly encountering situations where Members have failed to respond to ICAS correspondence, either in relation to a complaint or prior to a referral being made by another regulatory committee.
The ICAS Rules and Investigation Regulations require Members, CA Student Members, Affiliates and Firms to co-operate with the Committee and its Case Officers in relation to any investigation and to respond to all professional correspondence in a prompt and adequate manner.
In particular, Members are under an obligation to comply with requests for information made by ICAS which relate to regulatory functions and responsibilities. The information is requested so that ICAS can fulfill its obligations as a regulatory body.
The Investigation Committee views seriously any failure to respond which affects ICAS' ability to comply with its obligations as a regulatory body, particularly as this failure undermines the system of self-regulation that exists within the accountancy profession. The Investigation Committee has now adopted a robust approach to dealing with such cases.
If you believe you have health issues which would impact on your ability to respond during an investigation, you should notify the Case Officer handling your complaint immediately. Please refer to our Guidance on Health Issues for more information.
If the information you need is not included in this helpsheet, please contact the Case Officer who is dealing with the complaint. Alternatively, please telephone +44 (0)131 347 0271 and ask to speak to a member of the Investigations Department.
For complaints which are determined from 1 January 2015 onwards, the Investigation Committee will make reference to its Sanctions Guidance when assessing the appropriate level of penalty. This document sets out the process which the Investigation Committee will follow when making a decision.
It also includes guidance on the level of sanction which may be appropriate for certain offences; together with general information on orders and financial penalties. We recommend that this document is carefully considered if a complaint is referred to the Investigation Committee.
If the complaint raised against you is ultimately upheld and a disciplinary sanction is applied, ICAS will publicise the outcome in accordance with Regulation 8 of the Investigations Regulations. Please refer to our Publicity Guidance for more information.
Public interest complaints
The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) acts as an independent disciplinary body for accountants, accountancy firms and actuaries in the UK in relation to public interest cases. The arrangements for the investigation and discipline of public interest complaints are governed by the FRC Disciplinary Scheme.
ICAS is required to be part of the Scheme by virtue of the Companies Act 2006.
Under the Scheme, a Participant Body which has a Member or Firm under investigation is responsible for the costs of the investigation and, if appropriate, the costs associated with the hearing of a formal complaint before a Discipline Tribunal.
Public Interest Sub-Committee
This is a Sub-Committee comprised of CA and Lay members of the Investigation Committee, which undertakes preliminary enquiries into complaints which involve the following:
- Members, Affiliates or Firms involved in the banking or financial services sector, or with any public interest entity
- Matters which raise important issues affecting the public interest in the United Kingdom
- Matters which raise important issues affecting the reputation of ICAS and/or the accountancy profession.
Where there are clear and substantiated grounds to indicate a breach of rules, regulations, professional or ethical standards, the Sub-Committee will ensure there is a formal investigation to assess whether a Member, Affiliate or Firm is liable to disciplinary action. In some instances, this may require referral to one of ICAS’ oversight regulators, e.g. the Financial Reporting Council.
You can view the Sub-Committee's terms of reference here.
An interim order is an order made by a Discipline Tribunal which applies pending completion of a separate regulatory or disciplinary process. It is primarily designed to protect the public interest during the period of time required to complete the regulatory or disciplinary process. Guidance has been prepared by the Discipline Board to assist Discipline and Appeal Tribunals in their consideration of interim orders.