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Professional practice

Complaints procedure

Clause 15:

A licensed immigration adviser must:

  1. develop and maintain an internal complaints procedure that notes that the client may also complain to the Immigration Advisers Authority, and
  2. if a complaint is made to the adviser, follow their internal complaints procedure.

An internal complaints procedure may include the following information:

What has changed compared to the 2010 Code?

2010 Code – required advisers to:

  • develop and maintain internal procedures for the resolution of complaints
  • explain to and provide clients with a copy of the adviser’s internal complaints procedure before any agreement was entered into
  • explain to, and provide clients with, the details of the complaints and disciplinary procedures that are outlined in the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act 2007
  • where complaints were received by the Registrar, provide timely responses to requests by the Registrar, as required by the Registrar’s operating requirements.

2014 Code – clause 15 requires advisers to:

  1. develop and maintain an internal complaints procedure that notes that the client may also complain to the Immigration Advisers Authority, and
  2. if a complaint is made to the adviser, follow their internal complaints procedure.

Advisers must then, under clause 17(c), before entering into a written agreement with the client, advise the client that they have an internal complaints procedure and provide them with a copy of it.

Advisers must still respond to any requests from the Registrar in a timely manner as required by clause 1.

Role and value of the internal complaints procedure

It is a reality that all professionals make mistakes, that they will be unfairly accused of making mistakes and that they will have to deal with clients who have been disappointed. Professionals deal with aspects of people’s lives that are both important to them and often emotionally sensitive.

Having an internal complaints procedure is an opportunity to deal effectively with issues that have ‘gone wrong’. If a client comes to an adviser with a complaint, and the adviser addresses their concerns effectively, the adviser may retain a healthy professional relationship with that client.

As a starting point, an adviser should usually acknowledge the genuineness of the client’s concerns, which is a different matter from accepting that the adviser has done something wrong. In fact, the client may have a genuine concern, which is based on a misunderstanding.

In assessing the client’s complaint, an adviser should objectively consider whether they have made a mistake and, if that is the case, what they should do to put it right.

Some clients will be unreasonable, and an adviser will not be able to change that. The majority of clients, however, will be influenced by whether their adviser listens to their concerns, explains honestly and frankly what their perspective is, takes responsibility to the extent that they have been in error and tries to put things right.

A client may not necessarily head up their correspondence ‘complaint’. It is an adviser’s responsibility to identify when a client is making a complaint, which could be in person or in writing. An adviser should start their internal complaints process as soon as they determine that the client is making a complaint.

It may sometimes be prudent for an adviser to use a mediator if it looks like it may be difficult to put things right with the client, or a client may actually suggest using a mediator themselves. A mediator can act as a neutral third party and facilitates rather than directs the process. Although mediation may come at a cost to an adviser, it may save time and money in the long run. Mediation may resolve an issue within hours. Alternatively a complaint made to the Authority and forwarded to the Immigration Advisers Complaints and Disciplinary Tribunal for decision may take some time and may result in a public decision, financial penalties or other sanctions.

Example internal complaints procedure

Here is an example of an internal complaints procedure that advisers may wish to adapt to fit their circumstances:

Internal Complaints Procedure
[Company Name and Business Address]

  1. If at any time you have a complaint about any of the services that we have undertaken to provide to you in accordance with our written agreement, you may make a complaint to:
    • the licensed immigration adviser handling your immigration matter; or
    • if you would prefer to discuss the complaint with someone other than your licensed immigration adviser, you may contact [Name] at our office. [He/she] may be contacted by email at [Email Address], by telephone at [Telephone Number], or in writing at [Postal Address].
  2. We will send you an acknowledgement of your complaint in writing within two (2) working days of receiving it.
  3. We would be happy to meet with you at any time to discuss the nature of your complaint, so that we can attempt to resolve it fairly and promptly between ourselves. You can bring any support person you wish to such a meeting.
  4. We would also be happy to arrange a mediator to attend a meeting if you wish.
  5. We will formally reply to your complaint within 10 working days of meeting with you, or receiving the full details of your complaint.
  6. If you are not happy with our response to your complaint, and you feel that we have demonstrated one or more of the following grounds for complaint - negligence, incompetence, incapacity, dishonest and misleading behaviour, or have breached the Licensed Immigration Advisers Code of Conduct  - you may complain to the Immigration Advisers Authority (the Authority).
  7. A complaint made to the Authority must be in writing and specify the ground or grounds that form the basis of your complaint. You can use the Complaint Form which, together with other information on the complaints process, is available on the Immigration Advisers Authority website, at www.iaa.govt.nz, where you will also find the Authority’s contact details.

If a client complains to the Immigration Advisers Authority

The Immigration Advisers Licensing Act 2007outlines the process by which complaints made against licensed immigration advisers are managed.  Under this process, the Authority decides whether to accept or reject a complaint, and if accepted, refers the complaint to the Tribunal to decide.

Remember, if you do receive a complaint:

  • deal with the client professionally when they raise an issue with you – take them seriously and do what you can to resolve the issue.

If the complaint is made to the Authority for referral to the Tribunal:

  • provide clear written records to the Authority if requested
  • be professional with the client, the Authority and the Tribunal
  • if you have made a mistake, be honest and identify what you can do to make improvements in your practice.

For further information about the Tribunal, refer to the Immigration Advisers Complaints and Disciplinary Tribunal section of the Ministry of Justice website, www.justice.govt.nz.

Here are some decisions from the Immigration Advisers Complaints and Disciplinary Tribunal that refer to the importance of dealing with the Tribunal professionally:

Schiller-Cooper v Lozano

Decision: [2013] NZIACDT 1 (8 January 2013) (PDF, 234 KB)

Penalty Decision: [2013] NZIACDT 17 (21 March 2013) (PDF, 136 KB)

Chand and Kumari v Prakash

Decision: [2012] NZIACDT 60 (28 September 2012) (PDF, 145 KB)

Penalty Decision: [2012] NZIACDT 85 (3 December 2012) (PDF, 178 KB)