Some complaints made to professional bodies do not fall within the scope of their conduct processes, because they are about service issues. Service issues are generally between members of the public and CIMA members in practice and include matters involving a dispute over contracts, letters of engagement and/or minor concerns about standards of service provided by the accountant in question.
CIMA cannot take action on a complainant’s behalf to determine fee, contractual or service issues. Neither can CIMA compel a member to make financial restitution – ie pay back money or provide compensation. However many of these issues may be resolved by using the accountant’s internal complaints procedure.
Internal complaints procedures
Like many businesses and service providers, all CIMA members in practice are required to have standard letters of engagement and complaints handling procedures in place and this is monitored by CIMA.
Many low level complaints can be dealt with by these procedures and early resolution may prevent complaints escalating to the point where misconduct becomes part of the issue. If your attempt to use the internal complaints procedure is unsuccessful you may wish to consider whether your complaint can be resolved by alternative dispute resolution (ADR).
Alternative dispute resolution (ADR)
ADR is a collective term for the processes and techniques that enable parties to come to an agreement without having to go to court. It can help parties settle disputes, with (or without) the help of a third party.
CIMA will facilitate the first stages of an independent ADR process provided by CEDR Ltd, for members of the public with service related issues involving a CIMA member in practice in the UK. The ADR service offers two processes for resolving concerns - initially conciliation, followed by arbitration if conciliation is unsuccessful.
CIMA pays the initial set-up fee of GBP950 with costs paid by the parties going forward. Although there is a cost it may still be worth following an ADR process as it is generally quicker and cheaper than going to court and is more confidential.
Conciliation allows the parties to a dispute to use a conciliator, who meets with the parties separately in an attempt to resolve their differences whilst in an arbitration the parties to a dispute present their sides of a case to a trained third party (without the need for legal representation).
If you wish to explore this option, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.