Our complaints process

How does it work?

This short video explains how our complaints process works.

 

1. Initial assessment

When we receive your complaint, we will assess whether it is something that we can handle and whether issues you have raised suggest that the publication might have broken the Code.

If we do not think the Code has been broken (breached), a member of our staff will write to you to explain why we are unable to take your complaint forward. You should expect to hear from us within 15 days about whether or not we think the Code may have been broken. You can ask us for a review of this decision within 14 days. Our Complaints Committee will consider your request.

If your complaint is in our remit, but there is no possible breach of the Editors’ Code we will also send a copy of your complaint, your details and our response to the publication you are complaining about. Sometimes, the publication might contact you about your concern, even if we can’t deal with it.

2. Referral to the publication

If your complaint is about something that may have broken the Code and you have not already contacted the editor of the newspaper or the magazine, we will normally send them all the information you gave us, including your contact details, and ask them to contact you. This is to give you and them the opportunity to sort out your complaint. This part of the process can last up to 28 days, but this can be shorter if you and the publication find you are not making any progress.

We ask you to correspond with the publication before we begin an investigation because an editor could offer you more solutions to your complaint than we are able to through our complaints process. For example, they might offer to:

  • amend online articles, or issue corrections or clarifications
  • make a private or public apology
  • remove articles or pictures from websites
  • delete internally held material or tagging from internal records and archives
  • publish additional news coverage
  • give you an assurance about future news coverage or behaviour
  • print a letter from you responding to the original article, or
  • give a good explanation of why something was done or printed.

However, an editor does not have to resolve your complaint with you and may choose to defend their journalism instead. If this is the case, and you are still not happy or you have received an offer to resolve your complaint which you do not want to accept, you can ask us to begin our investigation.

You will be assigned a complaints officer and can contact us at any time, including if:

  • you have any questions about your complaint or how the publication is responding
  • you have difficulties dealing with the publication direct, or
  • you think we should be involved earlier.

3. Investigation

If you and the publication can’t settle your complaint, one of our complaints officers will write to the editor of the publication to ask for their response to the complaint, and may ask some specific questions. The complaints officer might also ask you some questions. You and the publication will normally have seven days to respond to these questions. We ask these questions so that the Complaints Committee will have all the information it needs to make a decision on your complaint.

At the same time as an investigation, the complaints officer will still try to help you and the publication mediate your complaint, if this is something that you both want. This could result in anything which is similar to the offers that the publication might make during the referral period (see ‘Referring your complaint to the publication’). A record of this will be published on our website.

We are not able to guarantee how long the investigation stage will last, but we will do our best to make sure that the process moves quickly. The process will move more smoothly and quickly if you are able to respond to our emails within the timescales we set out.

You should hear from us regularly with updates about our investigation.

4. Adjudication by the Complaints Committee

If your complaint is not resolved, the Complaints Committee will decide whether the Code has been broken. To make sure that the process is fair, the Complaints Committee can only use information which has been seen by both you and the publication to make its decision.

If the Committee decides that the Code has not been broken, it will issue a decision explaining the reasons why your complaint has not been upheld. If your complaint is upheld, the Complaints Committee will give you and the publication a copy of the decision and may force the publication to either print a correction or the full version of its decision. The Complaints Committee decides the wording of the correction or adjudication, its size and where it must be published. We will also publish a copy of the decision on our website. You can request that your complaint is published anonymously

5. Review

You can ask for a review of any adjudication by the Complaints Committee within 14 days, if you think that the process that we followed in investigating your complaint was flawed. The Independent Complaints Reviewer, who works independently from us and any publication, will review the complaint. They can make the Complaints Committee reconsider your complaint if they find that the process was flawed.

Complaints policies

Data handling
How we use your data in our complaints process

Simultaneous correspondence
Corresponding separately with a publication during our complaints process

Third party complaints
Dealing with complaints under Clauses 2 to 12 of the Editors' Code from those not directly affected by editorial material or journalistic behaviour

Representative group complaints
Dealing with complaints by others who may be affected by coverage that potentially breaches the Editors' Code

Time limits
When we are able to consider complaints from

'Timed out' complaints
How we deal with failures to provide timely responses 

Anonymity
How we deal with requests for anonymity 

Multiple complaints
How we deal with large numbers of complaints on general points of fact

Reasonable adjustments to our complaints process
Accommodating the needs of anyone who can't follow our usual complaints process, for example, people with disabilities

Reopening resolved complaints
Reopening complaints which have been resolved between complainant and publisher

Unacceptable behaviour
Interacting with our staff

Concurrent legal proceedings
Considering complaints if there are ongoing legal proceedings

Complaints about our process
How and where to complain

 

Questions about our process? Find out more in our Complaints FAQs