Reporting Professional Misconduct
Members of the public generally know that if they feel someone has acted criminally, including causing them personal harm, they can make a report to the police, or in some cases even take legal action against that individual. However, other options are also available when those concerns pertain to members of a regulated profession. Regulators are responsible for protecting the public interest, including ensuring members of the profession are practising safely and ethically, and meeting the standards expected of them. In this regard, regulators are often legally obligated to provide a mechanism for receiving and addressing complaints. You might choose to make a complaint or report suspected professional misconduct to a regulator for various reasons, including:
If the service provider failed to provide the level of service expected
If the service provider misrepresented their qualifications or the services they could provide
If the service provider behaved inappropriately, such as being excessively rude or breaching your privacy
Reporting suspected professional misconduct to a regulator provides an opportunity to address and correct inappropriate behaviour, including the establishment of clear expectations in order to help prevent future occurrences. It can also establish a prior history, in case similar complaints about the same service provider arise in the future. The complaint process can also emphasize the seriousness of the concerns to the service provider, and can provide the complainant with a resolution to the matter.
When deciding what mechanism to use to report a concern or make a complaint, you should consider the nature of your concern and what resolution you are seeking. For example, if you believe you were overcharged for a service and you are seeking a refund, many regulators are unable to direct its members to issue financial compensation to a complainant.
Here are a few things to consider when making a complaint to a regulator:
- Confirm that the profession in question is regulated: A simple internet search on the profession and your jurisdiction (such as the province or state where the service was provided) will usually confirm whether that profession is regulated and if there is a process for making complaints
- Confirm that the service provider is a regulated professional: Many regulators post public registers that list its members, allowing the public to confirm whether an individual is in fact a registered member of the profession. Although complaints typically have to be about a registered member, the regulator will likely want to know if someone misrepresented himself or herself as a registered member of the profession. In those cases the regulator may pursue an illegal practice investigation.
- Obtain information about the complaints process: How complaints are addressed vary from regulator to regulator, so inquire with the relevant regulator about how its specific process works, what you can expect from the process, and even possible resolutions or outcomes
In addition to the regulator, other options are available if the public wishes to report suspected professional misconduct. If the service provider in question is employed by a facility or business, that organization may have its own process for addressing complaints from the public. The Better Business Bureau, or similar organizations, while they typically do not address the actions of individuals, will field complaints about organizations and help protect consumer interests. Your local Ombudsman will also address complaints regarding services provided through government agencies. And finally, if you believe the service provider has broken the law or otherwise behaved in a criminal manner, you can make a report to your local police agency.