It is the Code, and the fact that the Institute can take steps to uphold it, that makes Members accountable for the standard of their professional conduct. This accountability is a valuable asset both to Members and to those who hire or employ them.
Anyone can make a complaint to the Institute if they believe a CIPR Member (or others for whom they are directly responsible) may have breached the Code.
We treat complaints seriously and carefully. For the sake of our Members, as well as the people who have complained, we must be fair, equal and rigorous.
If it appears that the Code has been breached, the CIPR's Professional Standards Panel will investigate and either negotiate a settlement or adjudicate.
The complaints process requires all parties to a complaint to maintain confidentiality throughout. The CIPR will not confirm or deny the existence of a complaint and will not comment on any disciplinary matter until a final adjudication has been made - and only then in certain circumstances.
We resolve most complaints through informal negotiation ('Conciliation'). When this is not possible, a hearing is convened through the Professional Standards Panel (PSP). Hearings are conducted by members of the PSP and lay professionals, joined by the Regulatory Consultant and the CIPR's solicitor. The complainant and defendant may bring representation.
The hearing results in a report to the CIPR Board of Directors, which endorses the decision of the PSP. There is an appeals process and the Appeals Panel considers appeals by Members against decisions of the PSP.
In certain cases the Institute's Board of Directors may expel a Member summarily, that is, without going through the Complaints Procedure: for example, if a Member has been convicted of a crime involving dishonesty or of any sufficiently serious crime, or has breached the rules of a regulatory or other authority by which they are bound.
Where a complaint is upheld, sanctions open to the PSP to include a reprimand, a suspension of membership or expulsion from the Institute. Where a case is found not proven, it will be dismissed. Where the Code of Conduct is found to have been breached, decisions of the PSP are normally made public.
If the Committees decide that a CIPR Member has delivered substandard work to you, they may require the Member to return any fees you paid for that work. If the substandard work was part of a larger contract, the refund is limited to the value of that part of the contract. If you want further compensation, you will have to go to law: the CIPR does not impose damages.
For further information or advice on the CIPR Code of Conduct and the processes that support it, please contact:
Paul Noble, Regulatory Consultant
Chartered Institute of Public Relations,
85 Tottenham Court Road, London W1T 4TQ