Complaints

Does IPSO regulate all newspapers and magazines in the UK?

IPSO regulates most UK newspapers and magazines (but currently not the Guardian, Independent or Financial Times) If the publication you want to complain about is not a member of IPSO you can contact them directly.

Who can complain to IPSO?

Accuracy

Anyone can complain about a significant inaccuracy which has been published on a general point of fact. Where an inaccuracy relates to a specific individual or organisation, IPSO may be able to take forward a complaint from a third party, but will need to consider the position of the party directly affected including:

  • How likely is it that we will be able to investigate the factual position adequately?
  • Is the material in dispute in the public domain, or would we need the cooperation of the first party?
  • What is the likelihood that that person would cooperate with our inquiries?
  • What is the likely impact on the first party? Could an investigation and/or a published decision cause embarrassment or represent an intrusion or an infringement of the first party’s freedom of expression? Could an investigation cause harm by publicising the matter?
  • Are we likely to encounter legal difficulties in investigating or publishing our findings, in relation to the first party?
  • Is the first party likely to be in a position to make a fully informed decision as to whether to complain on their own behalf?

Other issues

Where the complaint relates to another issue or the inaccuracy is not on a general point of fact, IPSO can take forward a complaint from anyone directly affected by the article or journalistic conduct (or an authorised representative). We can also take forward complaints from representative groups, where the alleged breach of the Code is significant and there is a public interest in doing so. If you are complaining on behalf of a representative group IPSO will ask you to explain:

  • which group you believe has been affected by the alleged breach
  • how you are representative of that group
  • how you believe the alleged breach is significant
  • how you believe he public interest would be served by IPSO considering the complaint.

How can I make a complaint?

You can complain via IPSO’s online complaint form or in writing. Make sure you read the guidance on how to complain.

What happens once I have complained?

View IPSO's complaints process and procedures to find out how your complaint will be dealt with and potential outcomes. 

What are some of the ways that my complaint might be resolved?

Typical examples include:

  • the publication of a correction, apology, follow-up piece or letter from you
  • a private letter of apology from the editor
  • an undertaking as to future conduct by the newspaper
  • the annotation of the publication's records to ensure that an error is not repeated.

IPSO’s Complaints Officers will advise you on ways of resolving your complaint.

If a complaint is upheld, what can IPSO do?

IPSO can issue a critical adjudication against a newspaper or magazine. This is a very strong deterrent which effectively acts as a powerful ‘name and shame' sanction as editors do not like having to publicise their mistakes to their staff, readers and competitors. The publication will then have to publish this text in full on its own pages, with a headline reference to IPSO , and with ‘due prominence'.

IPSO says that critical adjudications must be published with 'due prominence'. What does this mean?

The Editors' Code expects corrections and adjudications to be published somewhere proportionate to the original article. This common-sense approach does not necessarily mean that something has to be published on the same page as the original article, as there will be a number of factors to consider in each case including: the gravity of the error, the speed with which it has been addressed by the publication, the proportion of the original story, and whether the newspaper has a designated corrections column.

Can anyone complain to IPSO?

Yes. IPSO’s services are totally free and require no legal representation or specialist knowledge of the media. Although people in the public eye can and do complain to us too, the vast majority of complainants are ordinary members of the public.

Do I need a solicitor to make a complaint?

No. If you would like help in making a complaint we will be happy to assist wherever possible.

Does it cost anything to complain?

Making a complaint to IPSO is free.

Can I get financial compensation?

IPSO has no formal powers to negotiate compensation on behalf of complainants. If you are seeking money, you will need to take legal advice. 

How long will it take IPSO to deal with my complaint?

Each case is different so it will depend on how complex the issues are. The average time is around 35 working days, but many complaints are resolved much more quickly than that.

You won't accept 'unduly delayed' complaints. What does this mean?

IPSO’s Complaints Committee will not generally accept complaints more than four months after the date of publication of the article (or incident that has given rise to the complaint). It may be able to consider a complaint about material which remains published on a publication’s website, up to twelve months after the date of first publication.

What sort of cases can IPSO not deal with?

  • Complaints about TV and radio (Ofcom is the regulator for the broadcast industry).
  • Complaints about advertising (The Advertising Standards Authority is the regulator for the advertising industry).
  • Legal or contractual matters that are dealt with more appropriately by the courts.
  • Complaints about books (contact the publisher of the book).

Can I make my complaint in a language other than English?

Unfortunately we are not yet able to accept complaints made in other languages. You may wish to ask a friend or other representative to make the complaint in English on your behalf, which we can accept with your signed authorisation.

Can I submit my complaint online or does it have to be by post?

You must make your complaint in writing but can do so either by post or using our online form. Please make sure you have included a link to the article or have attached a scanned copy of it in both cases. 

Can I speak to someone on the phone for advice before submitting my complaint?

IPSO staff are always happy to offer advice and can help to explain any area of the Editors' Code and can discuss how best your complaint might be framed.

What happens if IPSO receive a large number of complaints about the same thing?

If IPSO decides the issue requires investigation, we may choose a lead representative complaint, or choose to draft a summary of the complaints received to ensure that we are able to handle the issue proportionately and within a reasonable timescale. All complainants will be notified that the complaint will be handled in this way and will receive an update at the conclusion of the process.

Can I complain anonymously?

As part of IPSO's complaints process, names will be passed to publications so they can deal with your complaint, but both parties are expected to respect IPSO's confidentiality rules.

Each decision made by the Complaints Committee is published as soon as reasonably possible following the conclusion of the complaint. If you have any concerns about this, you will be given an opportunity to raise them before the Complaints Committee is asked to consider the complaint. Unless there are special circumstances (such as a court order), we will publish the decision on your complaint if you have not raised concerns about its publication before the decision is issued.

The Complaints Committee considers requests made by complainants that material should not be included in its published decisions on a case-by-case basis, but starts from the standpoint that decisions should generally be published in full, except in cases involving intrusion into privacy or where IPSO is satisfied that the complainant has a legal right to be anonymous. In considering requests the Committee may take into account:

  • whether the subject matter of the complaint includes information about the complainant which is private or personally sensitive, could cause the complainant distress or gratuitous embarrassment, or could otherwise cause harm to the complainant (such as by harming their relationship with an employer)
  • whether the decision could identify the complainant as a confidential source of information
  • whether inclusion of the complainant’s name in the decision could cause significant harm to a third party
  • whether inclusion of the complainant’s name in the decision could represent a specific threat to their security.

 The Committee will only agree to anonymise a decision having first considered whether there are other means by which a complainant’s legitimate concerns could be addressed. It may refuse to grant anonymity but agree to omit specific information from a published decision.

To avoid prejudging a complaint, the Committee will generally be grant anonymity where it appears that there is a significant overlap between the reasons for the anonymity request and the grounds for the complaint.If the Complaints Committee declines your request to be anonymous (or that specific information should not be published about you), you will have the opportunity to withdraw your complaint before the Committee rules. The Complaints Committee will not generally consider requests for anonymity made after a decision has been issued.

I’m disabled can you help me with making a complaint?

If you face difficulties in pursuing a complaint or otherwise making use of IPSO’s services because of a disability, we will make reasonable adjustments to our ordinary procedures in order to accommodate your needs.

If this applies to you, please let us know through any means of communication that is convenient to you, explaining the nature of your disability and any accommodation by us that you are seeking. We will ordinarily require you to provide some evidence in support of the request to allow us to undertake a proper assessment as to how your needs may appropriately be accommodated.

In considering the nature of the adjustments to be offered, we must have regard for the need to ensure that the complaints process is transparent, effective and fair to both parties. Generally speaking, this requires a written record (in some form) of the nature of the complaint, the response by the publication and the process that has been followed. 

Contact IPSO for more information.

Can I request a review of any decisions?

If you are informed by IPSO staff at the start of your complaint that it will not be considered further because it falls outside our remit or does not raise a possible breach of the Editors’ Code and believe that this decision is incorrect, you are entitled to request a review of the decision by the Complaints Committee within 7 days.

 If your complaint has been the subject of a decision by the Complaints Committee following investigation and you believe that the procedure by which the Committee considered the complaint was flawed, you may request a review by the Complaints Reviewer. Any request for a review must be made in writing within 14 days of the date the Complaints Committee issues its decision. IPSO will then decide whether to refer the complaint to the Complaints Reviewer. If the referral is made, the Reviewer will review the process by which the decision was made, and inform the Complaints Committee within 14 days whether it considers that the process was substantially flawed. If the Reviewer does not consider that the process was substantially flawed, the decision will then be issued. If the Reviewer does consider that the process was substantially flawed, the decision will be reviewed by the Complaints Committee, taking into account the Complaints Reviewer’s findings. The Committee will then issue its final findings.

What will my contact details be used for?

We will need to contact you in writing, and will write to you using the email address you have provided, or a postal address if you do not use email. Any contact information you provide will be included on your complaints form. A copy of this form may be sent to the publication when we have completed our assessment of your complaint. If your complaint is taken forward, the publication will need to contact you in writing. If there are contact details which you would like to provide to IPSO, but would not like to be passed to the publication, please note this when filling in the form.

Who reviews IPSO's decisions?

IPSO's independent complaints reviewer is Trish Haines. Find out more about her and her role here.