Insolvency Service Issues Guidance On “Unreasonable Individual Behaviour”

In a surprise move yesterday, the Insolvency Service issued new guidance on what they deem to be “Unreasonable Individual Behaviour”. I can only imagine what has caused them to take this new stance, anyway, read on and do not choke on your coffee when doing so….

The Insolvency Service provides a professional, fair and efficient service to our users. The main way we do this is in our communications with you, whether through general correspondence or dealing with complaints. This document sets out what you can expect from us and what we expect of you.

  1. What you can expect from us

We try to provide full responses to complaints and correspondence within the following timescales:

1.1 General correspondence

If your email, letter or phone call needs a general reply, we aim to reply within 15 working days. If we’re not able to respond completely in this time, we will tell you know when you can expect a full response.

1.2 Complaints

We aim to respond to formal complaints within 10 working days of receipt. If we are not able to respond within this time, we’ll reply within 5 working days and let you know when you can expect a full response.

These timescales help you to see if we have met our performance measures. We monitor, review and publish our performance in our annual report.

  1. What we expect from you

We know that interaction with the Insolvency Service can be stressful and can affect how you communicate with us. However, we still expect you to behave appropriately and treat our staff with courtesy and consideration as they carry out their work.

If you do not act in a reasonable manner it is likely to make it difficult for us to deal with your complaint or query effectively.

  1. Examples of unreasonable customer actions or behaviour

Some examples of behaviour we would consider unreasonable might be where you:

  • make threats against the Insolvency Service, our staff or any third parties allowed to act on our behalf
  • keep using rude or offensive language
  • demand responses in an unreasonable time period
  • refuse to cooperate with the complaint process
  • refuse to accept that certain issues are not the Insolvency Service’s responsibility or something we can deal with. For example, in cases where you should contact the court or another body that has power over the matter
  • insist your complaint or query is dealt with in ways that go against our complaints procedure
  • make unjustified complaints about staff who are trying to deal with your complaint or query
  • try to get staff dealing with you, or your case, replaced
  • contact us repeatedly about the same or similar issues when we have already given you all the information we can
  • make unreasonable demands on the time and resources of staff. This would be something like excessive phone calls or detailed emails and letters every few days
  • repeat complaints or queries with minor additions or variations that are not enough to start a ‘new’ complaint
  • argue points already responded to with no new evidence
  • change the main point of your complaint as the investigation proceeds
  • change or deny statements you made at an earlier stage (aside from when this is a genuine mistake)
  • raise lots of detailed questions that are not related to your case or complaint
  • record meetings and telephone conversations without telling us that you are doing this
  1. Type of action we can take

In the event of unreasonable behaviour or actions, we might need to limit your contact with us. We consider any decision to restrict contact with us very carefully and any action we take will always be reasonable.

Before we take any action, we’ll tell you that your conduct is a concern to us. This will give you the opportunity to change the behaviour. If you continue to behave in a way which we consider unreasonable, we might:

  • limit telephone calls to specific days or times
  • limit your contact to writing only. This might be where you have subjected our staff to abusive or excessive telephone calls
  • limit our written contact with you to postal methods only. This might be where you have submitted excessive emails on the same or similar subjects
  • limit you to only having one response to multiple lines of communication
  • limit your contact to a specific named person or people or department
  • stop all future communication with you on a defined issue. Any further correspondence on issues that have already been addressed, or that do not set out any substantially new issues, would be filed, but we do not respond to you. This action may apply to one specific department or where we consider it appropriate, we may extend this to cover all the Insolvency Service. If that is the case, if you attempt to call us, you will be told the call is being terminated
  • report any threatening or abusive comments to the police

This is not a full list, and we might take other actions depending on what the unreasonable behaviour is.

Any action we take in response to unreasonable behaviour, we will record and will be subject to regular review.

  1. Making you aware

We will always write to you to tell you:

  • why your behaviour is considered unreasonable
  • what action we are taking
  • whether this action applies across all of Insolvency Service or is only for a specific person, team or business area. If we decide we will not respond to any of your future correspondence, we’ll also explain how you can challenge this decision