How to make a complaint about an ICAEW member, firm or ACA student.
ICAEW can only help or get involved in your complaint if the accountant is one of our members or is regulated by us.
Most of the time you can resolve issues by talking to your accountant. If talking doesn't resolve things, put your complaint to the accountant in writing and ask them to respond within 28 days. Occasionally, however, you may find you're unable to resolve the problem, or that the nature of the issue means that you need to contact ICAEW for help.
So that we can review your complaint as quickly as possible, please provide as much information as possible in the complaint form. You will also need to send us all your documentary evidence with the complaint form. Please email your completed form and evidence to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please be aware the ICAEW member, firm or student who is the subject of the complaint will need to be shown any material relevant to the complaint if we are to use it. If you are not able to email the documents, please send your completed form and documentary evidence to:
Professional Conduct Department
321 Avebury Boulevard
Milton Keynes MK9 2FZ
For further guidance about how we investigate complaints, please read our booklet.
The first thing we do is assess whether there may be grounds for a complaint under ICAEW’s bye-laws and whether the ICAEW member or firm may have to be disciplined.
Depending on the nature and seriousness of the problem, we may:
This chart sets out ICAEW's complaints handling process.
If your complaint concerns something that ICAEW can't become involved in, we will explain why. If your problem relates to a commercial dispute (including the fees you’ve been charged), ICAEW may not be able to help and you may only be able to find a solution through the courts. Although we may be able to deal with certain issues of professional conduct related to the dispute (such as obtaining a breakdown of the bill), only the courts can pass judgment on contract terms.
If your problem relates to a criminal matter, you should ask the police (or other relevant authority) to investigate it first. Please let us know you've reported the matter. If an ICAEW Chartered Accountant is convicted, we may need to take further action. However, we can’t say whether an individual has committed a criminal offence.
In some cases, for example a fee dispute, ICAEW is not able to involved with resolving the dispute. This is because the ICAEW member or firm has not neglected to comply with ICAEW standards, guidance or regulations. In this instance, we recommend you seek your own legal advice. Further guidance about fee disputes is available.
How does conciliation work?
The case manager helps both parties consider various options with a view to finding a settlement. Both parties agree to try and resolve the situation through conciliation and, later on, decide to make or accept any proposals to settle the complaint. The case managers are neutral and are not there to represent either party or make orders. Instead, they help to clarify the issues, give guidance and test the strength of both parties’ positions to help them reach a settlement. It helps if we can send to the other party a copy of any letters or information you send us. However, you can always mark documents ‘For ICAEW use only’ if you don’t want information to be disclosed.
We normally ask the accountant to respond within a specified period either directly to ICAEW or to the complainant. This gives the accountant the opportunity to outline their position and provide any supporting information that might be relevant. We then discuss and summarise the issues and explain the other party’s position. We may need to correspond further with both parties – by letter, email or phone – but we can arrange meetings if necessary.
A complaint often arises because of a lack of communication or a simple misunderstanding. Whatever has happened, our role is to help you both, and the more we all communicate, the more efficient the process will be.
How are cases usually concluded?
Conciliation can be efficient and successful but it does involve compromise. We resolve the case by exchanging letters or by signing a legally binding agreement called a conciliated settlement. This sets out the terms with which both parties are legally required to comply. Once the parties have implemented the solution, that’s the end of ICAEW’s involvement.
What if conciliation doesn’t work?
Although most complaints referred for conciliation are resolved, it doesn’t work in every case. If this happens, we can review the evidence to decide whether the matter should be further investigated. If we decide not to investigate, we’ll write to both parties and explain why.
How long does it take?
We try to agree an initial time-frame for resolution. Factors that can affect progress include the involvement of third parties such as insurers, the degree to which the parties cooperate and the complexity of the complaint. Members or firms may be under an obligation to tell their insurers about the complaint.
Can information be used against me?
If the discussions fail, neither party can subsequently refer to the negotiations in court, in arbitration or rely upon them. You can’t use documents or information obtained in conciliation as evidence in a court case or in arbitration except:
If we investigate the complaint, all the information and evidence gathered during conciliation will be made available to the investigating case manager. This is what you agree to when you enter into conciliation.
ICAEW can only deal with audit-related complaints involving the firms it registers.
If a firm signs an audit report as a registered auditor, it must comply with the regulations of the body with which it is registered under the Companies Act 2006. The firm’s notepaper should show the name of the firm’s registering body. If you’re not sure, consult the register of statutory auditors UK at www.auditregister.org.uk, statutory auditors Ireland (www.cro.ie) or call +44 (0)131 347 0100 to find out which body registers the firm. If you’re unable to resolve your complaint directly with the audit firm and it is registered with ICAEW, please contact us and we will consider your complaint.
If you believe the financial statements of a company don't show a true and fair view, you should refer the matter to the Financial Reporting Council's Conduct Committee or the Company Investigations section of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills as they have the powers to review, make recommendations and refer cases to court. Only the courts can determine matters of judgment such as a true and fair view.
An insolvency practitioner (IP) has to comply with standards set out in the Statements of Insolvency Practice, the Code of Ethics and ICAEW’s insolvency regulations. If you're concerned the IP may not have followed any of these standards, you'll need to send your complaint to the Insolvency Service:
If your complaint is about a Northern Ireland insolvency case and the IP is licensed by ICAEW, please follow the process outlined in the how to make a complaint section at the top of this page.
If you're challenging the decisions of an IP, there are procedures under insolvency legislation that you need to follow. The IP acts under statutory rights and powers; only the courts have the power to decide if the IP has exercised them properly. ICAEW can't intervene in these matters; for example, retention of title.
If you think the accountant did not act according to the regulations or gave you misleading information when making the sale, please contact us and we will consider whether we can become involved. If, however, your complaint is that the investment has not reached the investment performance you expected, this is not something we can help with. Investments include pensions and endowments.
Firms offering investment business advice have to be authorised. The current authorising bodies are:
The firm's notepaper will show who it's authorised by. If the firm is authorised by the FCA, you need to send your complaint to them.
You may be entitled to apply for compensation from the Chartered Accountants’ Compensation Scheme Ltd if:
Visit icaew.com/cacs or call + 44 (0)1908 546 287.
For complaints relating to legal services work.
This section may help to answer some of your questions having made a complaint about an ICAEW member or member firm.
ICAEW, ICAS and ICAI operate a compensation scheme for members of the public who have incurred a financial loss as a result of investment advice given by a firm of chartered accountants.