The Conciliation Service

Complaints referred to the Conciliation Service are assessed for their suitability prior to conciliation. Therefore, please read the Assessment section if you cannot find the answer to your question here.

ACCA is recognised as an ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) provider by the UK Chartered Trading Standards Institute. View a complete list of ADR entities published by the European Commission.

ACCA is also listed as a Dispute Resolution Body on the Online Dispute Resolution website accessible to EU consumers and traders and managed by the European Commission. If you have a complaint about goods or service you bought online in an EU country please view this list of Dispute Resolution Bodies.

ACCA offers conciliation - a form of ADR - to help resolve complaints which are unlikely to lead to disciplinary action. There are three separate aspects of the service: conciliation, mediation and arbitration.

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What is conciliation?

Conciliation is a form of ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) whereby the parties to the dispute are afforded the use of our experienced conciliators to attempt to resolve their differences.

This process is phone-based and requires the parties to engage in the procedure. A conciliatory approach is utilised in order to assist the parties in their disagreement. However, due to the fact that ACCA is a regulator, the Senior Investigations Officer will also consider whether any breaches of our rules have occurred. 

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Who works in the Conciliation Service?

The Conciliation Service is comprised of 5 ADR officials and consists of 1 manager and 4 Senior Investigators (case handlers), all of which have been appointed on a permanent basis after a rigorous interview to check competency.

Each member of the team is either legally qualified and/or an accredited mediator. Their role is both regulatory and conciliatory, in that they are obliged to ensure that our members are operating within the confines of ACCA rules and regulations, whilst also attempting to conciliate the complaint.

ACCA acts in the public interest and no investigations officer will discharge their duties in a manner which is biased to
either party to the complaint or their representatives.

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What types of complaints will you conciliate?

ACCA will investigate complaints about its members and students, and, where appropriate, will attempt to conciliate matters between parties.

The type of complaints considered appropriate for conciliation, range from client care issues to professional behaviour, however, it is not possible to provide an exhaustive list of complaints considered appropriate, as each complaint is considered on its unique facts.

For more general guidance on the types of complaints considered by ACCA, please download the Complaints ACCA Investigates document (PDF format, 39 KB). This document also sets out the grounds on which ACCA can refuse to investigate.  

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What languages do you conciliate in?

We are currently only able to offer conciliation in English. However, if a complaint is made via one of our global offices we may be able to assist the local office.

Please note that if a complaint is considered to be a matter of misconduct, the matter would be referred to our investigation department who would investigate regardless of language.

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What if I do not want to take part in conciliation?

Conciliation can be hugely helpful in resolving complaints that seem unresolvable. The process allows the parties to talk directly to the conciliator in order to express not only their complaint but also the consequences of the error or lack of care.

In addition, conciliation can facilitate a practical resolution to your complaint. For example, although you may feel incredibly frustrated by your accountant’s failure to provide your new accountant with your books and records and you want the member punished for their behaviour, this is not going to solve your immediate problem.

In this situation, the conciliator would contact the member and remind them of their obligation to provide this information. Following the provision of this information, the conciliator would then decide whether the delay in providing the information has breached ACCA’s rules and advise accordingly.

It is important to note that a refusal to partake in the conciliation process will not result in an automatic referral to the Investigations Department. As mentioned above, our conciliators are also Senior Investigations Officers and as such it is ACCA’s decision as to where that resource is used most effectively. 

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Do I have to pay a fee to take part in conciliation?

No. The Conciliation Service is free to use. All we ask is that you make yourself available to the process and provide evidence promptly when requested. 

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Can I meet with the conciliator?

Both the conciliation and investigations process are either telephone or correspondence based. Unfortunately ACCA has no facility to meet either party. 

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How much of my time will this take?

It is the role of ACCA to investigate complaints. However, without input from the parties this is not normally possible. Therefore, it is necessary for you to remain involved until the evidence has been provided. The time taken, therefore, will be dependent on the complexity of your complaint and responsiveness of the parties to requests for information.

In addition to the above, if your complaint results in a member being referred to the Disciplinary Committee you may be asked to attend the hearing as a witness.

For more information, please visit our FAQs on complaint adjudication section

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How long will it take you to resolve my complaint?

Conciliation is a phone-based investigation of your complaint and as such we are able to resolve complaints faster than a paper-based investigation. However, as the resolution of complaints in conciliation is highly dependent on the parties' willingness to engage in the process, we are somewhat dependent on them.

Nevertheless, once we have all the available evidence in the complaint and the complaint is allocated to the Conciliation Service, we aim to resolve most of our complaints within three months of the allocation. For cases that require further investigation, we aim to complete our investigation within six months of allocation.

However, depending on the nature of the complaint the investigation may progress beyond this time scale. 

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Will I have to talk to the accountant during my complaint?

No. The Senior Investigations Officer acting as the conciliator will act as the go-between for the parties. 

However, we will require you to have made attempts at local resolution prior to your complaint. If you have not, you may be requested to do so before we become involved. 

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Can I get compensation if the complaint is found in my favour?

No. Making a complaint against a member is not a substitute for seeking damages or other redress through the courts. Therefore, while ACCA members or firms may be ordered to pay compensation if a complaint against them is referred to a Disciplinary Committee and found proved, the maximum sum payable is £1,000.

ACCA itself cannot provide compensation for any loss suffered, unless the claim falls within the scope of its Financial Services Compensation Scheme. This may apply where a firm that was authorised to conduct 'investment business' by ACCA has gone out of business and may cover certain outstanding liabilities incurred in respect of investment business.

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My accountant made a mistake and I have to pay more tax. Will you be able to get them to pay this for me?

No. The tax liability of individuals remains their responsibility.

However, what we could possibly assist with are any penalties or interest that has accrued as a result of the mistake. This does not mean that we can make the accountant pay, but we would attempt conciliation in order to resolve the matter.  

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My accountant's fee is much larger than I was expecting. Can you help me?

We cannot advise on what is a reasonable sum for work done or investigate fee disputes but can advise on whether members have complied with ACCA's regulations relating to fees. 

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If the accountant reaches an agreement with me to settle, will you still look at their conduct?

Yes. An agreement to settle does not excuse a member’s conduct if it does not meet ACCA’s standards. As our conciliators are also Senior Investigations Officers they are able to carry out an investigation in conjunction with the conciliation process. 

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Is the agreed settlement legally binding?

No. The settlement agreed upon is not legally binding. However, the process of conciliation is the result of agreement between the parties and as such parties normally honour this. 

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What are the possible outcomes from the conciliation process?

The possible outcomes from conciliation are:

  • Closed - Successful
  • Closed - Unsuccessful
  • Closed - Rest on file - for more information, visit our FAQs about complaint investigation section
  • Closed - No case to answer
  • Closed - Lack of evidence
  • Referred to the Investigation Department

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I do not agree with your decision. What can I do?

Both parties will be provided with an opportunity, on receipt of our final decision, to appeal the decision to the Independent Assessor. For more information, please visit our FAQs about complaint investigation section

You should submit a written request setting out which aspects of the decision you disagree with and why; the Assessor will not consider the request unless this requirement is complied with. The request must be received within 30 days of ACCA’s notification of their decision; there is no power to extend this deadline.  

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What are arbitration and mediation?

Mediation is a more formal method of conciliation, whereby the mediator brokers a settlement during the course of a session attended by both parties. The parties are not obliged to accept the mediator’s suggestions and can pull out of the process at any time.

Arbitration is akin to a court procedure, in which the arbitrator’s decision is legally binding upon the parties. A documents-only arbitration is the most cost-effective, but arbitration can also be conducted by meetings or hearings.

Both The ACCA Mediation Scheme and The ACCA Arbitration Scheme are administered independently by the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators.

Further information is available in the Guide to ACCA’s Conciliation Service and in the mediation and arbitration scheme documents, which can be downloaded from the 'Related documents' section or obtained by request to ACCA’s Assessment Department on +44 (0)20 7059 5000.

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