IPSO Blog: What happens when you make a complaint?

Senior complaints Officer Lauren Sloan explains how we assess complaints and answers some of your frequently asked questions.

IPSO receives dozens of complaints every day. Every complaint we receive is looked at by a member of our complaints team, and we consider them all carefully. 

Once you’ve submitted your written complaint to IPSO – either through the online complaints form or by email – it will enter what’s known as ‘the assessment period’. This is where we identify whether complaints fall within our remit and whether they might raise a possible breach of the Editors’ Code. 

When you make your complaint, try to include as much information as you can, so we can give you the best advice. Make sure you give us a copy of the article(s) you want to complain about, a brief explanation of which clauses of the Editors’ Code have been breached and why, and any correspondence you have had with the publication before coming to IPSO. 

Each complaint gets a unique reference number, and all the information is uploaded to a central system where everyone who works on your complaint can review the file. Once we’ve looked at you complaint, a number of things might happen: 

  • Your complaint might not be within our remit. This could be because the publication you have complained about is not a member of IPSO, the articles you are complaining about fall outside our time limit, or your complaint does not relate to a matter covered by the Editors’ Code. 
  • We might decide that your complaint does not raise a possible breach of the Code, and will write to you to explain why. 
  • We might decide that your complaint raises a possible breach of the Code, and refer the matter to the publication to see if they can resolve your complaint or begin our investigation. 

Occasionally, we still need a little more information. We want to be sure we have given complainants a full and fair opportunity to express their concerns, so we may ask you to: 

  • Call our office – complaints officers are here to offer advice, especially to people who may not have used our service before and may not entirely sure about the Editors’ Code and how it works. It can sometimes be really helpful to have a quick chat to make sure we’ve fully understood your complaint. 
  • Explain why you think something is a breach of the Code – we might ask you to explain, for example, which parts of an article you believe are inaccurate, or why certain information is private, or provide any documents or information that you have referred to so that we can review this for ourselves. 
  • Ask you to comment on some information that is in the public domainsometimes there may be publicly available information that it would be really useful to get a complainant’s comments on in relation to their complaint. We always want to make sure that we are making decisions on the right factual basis. 

Some frequently asked questions about our assessment period 

Why am I receiving emails from more than one person about my complaint? 

  • All complaints are given a unique reference number and any the information you send about your complaint will go onto our central database, which everyone dealing with your complaint can access.


  • We understand that it may be frustrating to receive emails from different people. We try to keep the number of people you correspond with to a minimum, but sometimes you will receive emails from different members of staff, so that you can receive responses from us as quickly as possible. 

Why am I being asked to provide more information? 

  • We want to be sure we have fully understood exactly what you want to complain about. Each complaint is personal and is assessed on its own merits, so we want to give you the best opportunity to explain as fully as possible why you wish to complain. 

How long will this process take? 

  • It depends on a number of factors, such as how many articles/ publications you wish to complain about, the complexity of your complaint, whether we are able to reach you by email. We do try to work as efficiently as possible. 

What if I cannot make my complaint in writing, or follow the normal procedures? 

  • It is really important for us to have a written record of your complaint, so that there can be no misunderstandings. However, we will always consider any requests for reasonable adjustments to be made, so please do just let us know if you need help. 

If you have any questions about our complaints process you can contact us here. You might also find the short video about the process below helpful.


Originally published 27 September 2018.