How to make a complaint
What kind of complaints will IMPRESS receive?
You can make a complaint to IMPRESS about the content of a news article or the behaviour of a journalist or publisher where;
* the relevant news publication is regulated by IMPRESS. For a full list of publications, please see our website at http://www.impress.press/complaints/regulated-publishers.html; and
* the publication or behaviour is a potential breach of one or more provisions of the Editors’ Code of Practice. This applies to all material or acts that occurred before 24 July 2017
* the publication or behaviour is a potential breach of one or more provisions of The IMPRESS Standards Code. For all materials or acts that occur from 24 July 2017 onwards.
You can complain about the content of a news publication – whether online or in print - including news articles, photographs or other images, audio-visual material embedded in an article, user-generated comments to news articles and letters to the editor. You can also complain about the behaviour or conduct of a journalist/s. The Editors’ Code can be read in full here: http://www.editorscode.org.uk/downloads/the_code/Code-1-page-A4-2016.pdf
Who can make a complaint?
IMPRESS will accept complaints from:
* Anyone personally affected by a potential breach of the Code.
* A representative group like a charity or non-government organisation where that organisation represents a group affected by a potential breach of the Code. To accept such a complaint, there must be some public interest in the complaint.
* Third parties, including any individual or group, where the complaint is on a matter of accuracy.
How can I make a complaint?
1. You must first contact the publication in question.
2. The publication has 21 calendar days in which to respond to your complaint.
3. If after these 21 calendar days, you are dissatisfied with the publisher’s response to your complaint, or the publisher has failed to respond to you at all, you can then lodge a complaint with IMPRESS. IMPRESS will seek confirmation that a complaint has already been received and considered by a publication.
What if a publication needs more than 21 days to properly respond to a complaint?
IMPRESS may, in exceptional circumstances, extend the amount of time a publication has to resolve a complaint, where IMPRESS decides it is fair in the circumstances to do so. All requests to extend time limits must be approved by either the Chief Operating Officer or Chief Executive Officer within 24 hours of a request being made.
What would be an exceptional circumstance?
Exceptional circumstances could include (i) an atypically complex complaint which may involve multiple parties or an investigation requiring interviews with multiple witnesses; or (ii) a delay caused by unavoidable and unforeseen events such as illness, bereavement, extended absence of a key witness or a natural disaster or serious accident.
How long do I have to make a complaint to IMPRESS if I am dissatisfied with a publisher’s response?
You must bring a complaint to IMPRESS within four months of the first publication of the relevant news article or four months from the relevant behaviour or act.
Can I make a complaint to IMPRESS outside this four-month period?
If you were unaware of the publication or the behaviour within four months of the initial publication or conduct, you can still make a complaint to IMPRESS as long as you demonstrate that you had a reasonable reason for not knowing about the initial publication or conduct, or a reasonable reason for not making a complaint at an earlier time. However, your complaint will not be accepted if it is made more than 12 months from the date of the first publication or the time when the conduct occurred.
What if my complaint is urgent?
If your complaint is time sensitive, you may bring your complaint directly to IMPRESS before receiving a response from the relevant publisher. You will, however, be required to explain why you cannot wait for the publication to look into your complaint first.
How do I make a complaint to IMPRESS?
There are several ways you may lodge a complaint with IMPRESS.
1. You can use our online complaints form at: http://www.impress.press/complaints/
2. If you would prefer to speak to one of our staff, please call us on 020 3325 4288.
3. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
4. You can write to us at the following address:
IMPRESS: The Independent Monitor for the Press CIC
16-18 New Bridge Street
If you are writing to us, please include your name, address, telephone number and email address (if you have one). Please provide details of the publication in question and explain how you believe it has breached our standards code. One of our team will be in touch to confirm the details of your complaint and to explain our process to you.
What if IMPRESS receives multiple complaints about one news story?
In this case, IMPRESS will consolidate multiple complaints into a single ‘lead’ complaint and will not usually involve every individual complainant in each stage of the process. IMPRESS will, however, endeavour to contact all parties to a multiple complaint at the end of the process to explain the outcome.
Is there a cost to make a complaint to IMPRESS?
No. It is free to make a complaint to IMPRESS.
Can IMPRESS reject a complaint?
Yes. IMPRESS has the discretion to reject a complaint if:
* You have begun legal proceedings or arbitration against a publisher on the same matter as your complaint. Where the subject matter of a complaint is subject to the threat of legal proceedings and IMPRESS receives correspondence asking it to cease any complaints process, IMPRESS will consider this request based on the best way to fairly resolve a matter in a timely fashion.
* You have already made the same complaint to IMPRESS.
* Your complaint is clearly without foundation, seeks to argue a point of opinion, or seeks to lobby for a specific cause.
* Your complaint does not engage a provision of the Code.
* Your complaint is not about one of IMPRESS’s publishers or the publisher was not regulated by IMPRESS at the time the article was first published or the act complained about occurred .
Can I make an anonymous complaint?
No. IMPRESS will always need to take a complainant’s name and contact details to receive a complaint. IMPRESS will, generally, share the name of a complainant with the relevant publisher on the basis that only information contained in the final IMPRESS adjudication is made public. IMPRESS may exclude a complainant’s name from a final published adjudication where there are good reasons for doing so.
How long will IMPRESS take to consider my complaint?
IMPRESS aims to complete all investigations within 42 calendar days of receiving a complaint. However, complex complaints may take longer than this. We will keep you informed of progress.
What documents do I need to provide as part of an investigation?
Once a complaint has been accepted, IMPRESS will investigate the complaint. As part of this investigation, IMPRESS will inform both parties to a complaint of the relevant documents they need to provide.
Do I need legal representation?
No. You do not need to engage legal representation to make a complaint to IMPRESS. The IMPRESS complaints system is designed to be user-friendly and accessible. You may, however, appoint an agent to submit a complaint on your behalf, where you have given express permission for them to act for you.
Will my complaint be made public?
Yes. All adjudications will be published on the IMPRESS website within 7 calendar days of the ruling.
As a general rule, IMPRESS will share documents and materials provided by one party to a complaint with the other party unless there are good reasons not to share the documents with the other party, or there is a reason to redact parts of the documents.
IMPRESS will not publish any documents or other materials provided to IMPRESS by either party in the course of an investigation. These documents will be treated as confidential and IMPRESS expects both parties to a complaint to treat all such documents or materials as confidential.
How will IMPRESS conduct an investigation?
IMPRESS will begin by sending both parties correspondence outlining the nature of the complaint and providing them with an opportunity to respond to the complaint, or provide further information, by a stated date. IMPRESS will ensure both parties have an adequate opportunity to explain their position to IMPRESS.
IMPRESS may appoint an independent expert or investigator to conduct part or all of the investigation in circumstances where the complaint is complex or where specialist knowledge or understanding of a specific issue is required.
IMPRESS may decide to hold a hearing where parties will be asked to answer questions in person.
Once IMPRESS has considered the responses of both parties, it will issue an adjudication. An adjudication is a binding ruling made by the Board of IMPRESS that includes a finding of whether a publisher breached one or more provisions of the Code and if so, what if any sanctions are appropriate.
Can IMPRESS start its own investigation?
Yes. IMPRESS may investigate potential breaches of the Code even where no complaint has been received. IMPRESS may decide to investigate a particular news article or course of conduct where the issue in question is sufficiently serious or where it forms part of a pattern of conduct at a news publication.
Do I have a right to appeal a decision?
No. Once IMPRESS has published an adjudication, this is considered to be a final determination. You cannot appeal an adjudication. Where serious or systematic breaches of the Code or governance requirements have arisen, however, IMPRESS will invite a publisher to respond to a provisional determination, and may confirm or modify it, before issuing a final determination.
What sanctions can IMPRESS issue against a publisher?
If IMPRESS finds that a publisher has breached one or more provisions of the Code, IMPRESS will publish a determination.
As part of a determination, IMPRESS has the power to impose appropriate and proportionate sanctions. These may include ordering the following:
* Fines. IMPRESS can issue fines of up to 1% of publisher annual turnover, up to a maximum of £1m;
* Corrections. IMPRESS can direct the nature, extent and placement of corrections; and
* Apologies. IMPRESS can direct the nature, extent and placement of apologies.
What will IMPRESS take into account when issuing a sanction?
IMPRESS will consider all relevant factors that explain a publisher’s decision to publish a news article or to pursue certain behaviour, including;
* the extent to which the conduct involved wrong doing/blame, recklessness or dishonesty;
* where relevant, the length of time over which the breaches occurred;
* the number or frequency and duration of the breach(es);
* any steps taken to put things right and avoid future breaches;
* whether the publisher notified IMPRESS of the breach(es) and the extent of its cooperation;
* the need to demonstrate to society and to other publishers that IMPRESS takes firm action in order to protect the public interest and promote regulatory compliance; and
* the necessity to deter the publisher from future non-compliance.
What is the difference between a claim for arbitration and a code complaint?
The two schemes are separate.
To make a complaint under the Code, a complaint must directly engage one or more clauses of the Code. Code complaints are adjudicated by the IMPRESS Board and can result in a ruling involving sanctions against a publisher such as a requirement to issue a correction.
Arbitration is a low-cost way of settling a legal dispute between two parties. To make an application for arbitration, a complainant must have a legitimate cause of action against an IMPRESS publisher in one or more of the five causes of action outlined in the IMPRESS/CIArb arbitration scheme. They are defamation, breach of confidence, malicious falsehood, tort of misuse of private information and harassment.
Does your complaint raise data protection issues?
In some cases, a breach of the Standards Code may also amount to a breach of the Data Protection Act 1998. The Act controls how your personal information is used by organisations, businesses or the government. The Information Commissioner's Office accepts concerns raised against 'data controllers', meaning organisations, businesses, or the government where they use and process personal information. The ICO's website has information about their role and how to raise a concern to them: https://ico.org.uk/concerns/