IPSO Blog: Making an effective complaint

Our complaints process offers those who feel that an IPSO member has fallen below the standards required in the Editors’ Code the opportunity to seek redress.

We aim to make it as simple as possible to complain if you think the rules set out in the Code have been broken.

You can use our simple online form which takes you through the process. We’ve even made this handy video to explain what happens after you’ve submitted your complaint.

But what makes an effective complaint? Here are my top dos and don’ts.

1. Do make sure your complaint is something we can help with

Although we try to make our complaints process as simple as possible, it does take a few minutes to fill in the form, and we don’t want to waste your time filling a complaint if we are not going to be able to help. Visit our website to make sure that the newspaper or magazine you want to complain about is regulated by us.

Remember there are some things we can’t take complaints about – TV and radio, or the delivery of newspapers and magazines to name but a few! See a full checklist here.

Anyone can make a complaint about accuracy but for other clauses of the Code we need to take forward a complaint from the person directly affected by the article or behaviour (more on why here). Don’t forget you can also complain as a representative group.

2. You don’t need to use a lawyer

Our service is totally free and requires no legal representation or specialist knowledge of the media – and we’re happy to assist wherever possible. Occasionally people choose to use a legal representative  and this is fine too – but you certainly don’t need to.

Another option that you may want to consider, if you don’t feel able to make a complaint on your own, is asking a family member of friend to represent you in the complaint. As long as we know that you agree that they are representing you, we are happy to deal with them.

3. Do keep it brief

The longer you make your complaint, the harder it is for us to understand what you are concerned about. Sometimes complaints are complicated and take time to explain. But try and keep it as to the point as possible, focusing on your major concerns. While it won’t always be the case that what is important to you is most likely to break the Code – for example, you may have found an article very offensive, which isn’t covered by the Code – explaining what you think is most important helps us to understand your thoughts. We can then explain to you how the Code might apply to your concerns.

4. Don’t worry about formality

We want our complaints process to be as accessible as possible. Putting your complaint in formal language is not important. The key is that we understand what you are complaining about. Feel free to use bullet points and to express yourself in the way you feel most comfortable.

5. Do explain clearly what’s at fault

Make sure you clearly explain how the Editors’ Code has been breached. Our complaints form makes this simple as there’s a separate space for each clause selected. If you’re not sure, feel free to call us to discuss your concerns before filling in the form - we can discuss with you how they might relate to the Code.

6. Don’t provide lots of documents

It isn’t usually necessary to include lots of supporting documents. At the start of the complaints process what we need is for you to explain what you believe the problem is. If you’re complaining about an inaccuracy or misleading statement, it’s generally helpful for you to tell us what’s wrong, and give us the correct information. If you’re not sure whether it would be helpful to supply further background information or documentation, let us know that you’ve got it! We’ll tell you whether we need it.

7. Do include quotes

Often in accuracy complaints there are specific sentences in the article which the complaint relates to. If so, quote these in your complaint and explain why you believe they are inaccurate. This really helps us get to grips with what the problem is.

8. Don’t forget we’re here to help

Our team of complaints officers is here to help – if you need support with making a complaint you can contact us at inquiries.co.uk and we’ll be happy to assist.