Policy in Handling Complaints

Step 1 – Before you make a complaint

Before taking the step of making a complaint to us, it is important to be clear about what exactly it is that you are complaining about, and what outcome you would like to achieve. This will not only help you in terms of pursuing your complaint, but will also help the other party and those investigating to understand your position clearly.

It would be helpful if you could identify:

– The exact circumstances eg who, what, where, when
–  What happened eg what was said or done, and by whom
–  What you think should have happened instead, or what you were expecting
–  What you would like to happen now eg what outcome would you like to achieve
–  Please also identify and collate any relevant documents or other information that might be useful in helping us to investigate your complaint

Step 2 – Complain to the APDO member directly

In the first instance, please direct your complaint in writing to the APDO member whose services you engaged. In order to deal with your complaint, they will need the information detailed above in step 1. APDO will not be prepared to investigate any complaint unless this action is taken – unless there are exceptional circumstances for not contacting the APDO member in the first instance (Please contact us for advice if you feel your complaint falls within this exception).

We would expect our members to respond to any complaint lodged with them promptly. Good practice dictates that you should expect an acknowledgment of your complaint within 72 hours, although there may be occasions when this is not possible (eg holidays, illness). Please allow the APDO member a reasonable amount of time to consider and deal with your complaint.

Depending on the circumstances, we would expect you to have received an acknowledgment of your complaint within 7 days and a substantive response within 7 days thereafter eg within 14 days of lodging your complaint. In most cases, we envisage that the APDO member concerned will be able to resolve your complaint to your satisfaction and agree a mutually acceptable outcome with you. In cases where your complaint is not resolved, please proceed to step 3.

Step 3 – Complain to the APDO Board

Where your complaint has not been resolved by following step 2, please contact APDO directly via the contact page on our website www.apdo.co.uk and submit all details regarding your complaint in writing. Please provide as much detail as you can about your complaint, which will then be passed to the APDO Board Representative for investigation. The Board Representative will acknowledge your complaint, in writing, as soon as possible after it is received and in any event within 72 hours of receipt – unless this is not possible (eg holidays, illness) in which case acknowledgment will be made as soon as practically possible.

The Board Representative will treat all parties (including the person you are complaining about) fairly, sensitively and without discrimination or prior judgment and will take into account all written documentation and any other evidence when investigating your complaint.

Step 4 – Completion of Investigation

Once the investigation is complete, both you and the APDO member will be notified in writing by the APDO Board Representative of the Initial Findings and Preliminary Decision. You should normally expect to receive this notification within 7 days of acknowledgment of your complaint.
Both you and the APDO member will then have an opportunity to comment in writing on the Initial Findings and Preliminary Decision, and we would usually expect to receive any such comments within 7 days, although we can and will agree to a longer period of time if necessary, fair to all parties and appropriate.
Once those comments are received, the APDO Board Representative will review their Initial Findings and Preliminary Decision in light of such comments, and then make a Final Decision. Both parties will be notified of the APDO Board Representative’s Final Decision in writing within 7 days of the review taking place.

The Final Decision will contain details of whether the original complaint is upheld, and if so, what steps we require the APDO member to take regarding resolving your complaint. We will allow the APDO member a reasonable period of time within which to take such action as is required (usually within 7 days of notification of the Final Decision), and that period of time will be detailed in the Final Decision document.
Where the APDO member fails to carry out such actions within the timescale required, and has not lodged an Appeal pursuant to step 5, their membership may be terminated by the APDO Management Committee. Where the original complaint is not upheld, we will explain the reasons in the Final Decision document.

Step 5 – Right of Appeal

Where you have followed steps 1 – 4 of the APDO complaints procedure and have received a Final Decision that you do not find satisfactory, you have a Final Right of Appeal within APDO. The APDO member against whom the complaint was lodged has the same Right of Appeal, if they are dissatisfied with the Final Decision of the APDO Board Representative.

If you wish to exercise this right, you must within 7 days of receiving notification of the final decision, notify APDO in writing of your wish to Appeal to the Management Committee for a Review of the Final Decision. In this instance, the requirement for the APDO member to undertake any actions or remedies as detailed in the Final Decision document will be suspended, pending the outcome of the Appeal.

Step 6 – Appeal to the Management Committee

Where the Right of Appeal is exercised in line with step 5, the full details of the complaint including any and all representations made and evidence gathered, will be submitted to three independent members of the Management Committee – all of whom will have had no prior knowledge of or involvement in the investigation of your complaint. Each of the three Management Committee members will review the information, then decide whether to uphold the Final Decision of the Board Representative. The decision will be taken by majority vote. Where the Final Decision is upheld, that decision and the remedies required pursuant to it, will stand and be binding on both parties. There is no further right of appeal. Where the Management Committee members do not uphold the Final Decision of the Board Representative, they will substitute their own Final Decision on Appeal, which will then be binding on both parties. There is no further right of appeal.

Failure to Comply with APDO decision
In the event that an APDO member fails to comply with a binding decision made as a result of the APDO complaints procedure, whether by the APDO Board Representative or the Management Committee members on appeal, APDO would take such failure very seriously and would ultimately withdraw membership in the event of non-compliance.

Statutory and other Rights
Nothing in the APDO policy on handling complaints affects any of your statutory rights as a consumer or any other statutory rights of yourself or the APDO member who is the subject of this complaint. In the event that you have exhausted your rights under the APDO complaints procedure, you may still be entitled to take independent action through the judicial system. In such a case, we will advise you to seek independent legal advice, although we recommend that you follow the APDO complaints procedure in the first instance as this may resolve your complaint to your satisfaction.

Where a complaint is upheld, there are various remedies that APDO might require of the APDO member, taking into account the individual circumstances of the complaint, your own wishes and any representations made by the APDO member. Remedies can include a formal apology by the APDO member (or in certain circumstances by APDO) and an explanation about what has happened, and such remedies may bring a satisfactory conclusion for you. In other circumstances, appropriate remedial action may be required which would be designed to place you, as far as possible, in the position you would have been in had the circumstances for complaint not arisen.

APDO also has the right to require the APDO member to financially reimburse you, depending on the circumstances of your individual complaint. Any such financial reimbursement would be proportionate to your complaint, and fair to both parties. In every complaint received, APDO accepts full responsibility for seeking to resolve the complaint to the satisfaction of both parties.

Learning from Complaints
It is important for APDO that we learn, progress and develop to help support our growing industry of professional declutterers and organisers in the UK. To this end, we promise to learn any lessons from complaints made against our members, and to implement any policy changes to reflect such learning. We will let you know if we implement any policy changes as a result of your specific complaint. The reputation, credibility and integrity of our profession are of paramount importance to APDO and, whatever the circumstances of your complaint, thank you for bringing this to our attention and allowing us the opportunity of finding a resolution.
Please note – any reference in this document to a notification, comment or other representation being given or received ‘in writing’ includes postal, electronic or any other appropriate form of written communication.

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