Code of Practice
Chapter 4. A notary shall provide a prompt and proper standard of service for all clients
You should provide a prompt and proper standard of service for all clients. A notary’s clients may, for example, be private individuals, small businesses, charities, government agencies, and multinational corporations. Different clients have different needs, but all are entitled to the same prompt and proper standard of service.
Providing a prompt service includes responding to enquiries without undue delay. If you are unable to respond to a client’s enquiry promptly, the client should be directed to the next nearest notary or another notary in the same vicinity who may be able to respond promptly.
Providing a prompt service also means that, before accepting a client’s instructions, you ensure that you are able to act on them properly and promptly. Notarial acts often have to be produced within tight timescales and you should take reasonable steps to ensure that you are able to complete an instruction within the necessary timescale, allowing time to verify that the request is lawful and properly authorised, to establish the procedure for dealing with the matter in accordance with the Master’s Rules and any particular requirements in the receiving jurisdiction(s), and to verify the relevant matters of fact and law. If at any stage it becomes apparent that it will not be possible to complete work on a proper basis within an agreed timescale, whatever the reason, the client should be informed and remedial or alternative action agreed with the client on the notary’s own initiative.
Providing a proper standard of service means exercising competence, skill, and diligence. The particular needs and circumstances of each client should be taken into consideration when carrying out notarial activities, but in carrying out those activities in all cases you must be competent in the legal and practical aspects of notarial practice, you must be skilled in understanding and assessing a client’s needs and the ways in which those needs may be fulfilled, and you must be diligent in attending to those needs.
If you are not able to provide a prompt and proper standard of service for a particular client or for a particular matter you must direct that client to another notary or, if appropriate, a different service provider, who is likely to be able to attend to the client’s needs in a prompt and proper manner. If you are not able to provide a prompt and proper standard of service due to a lack of competence or skill (there should never be a want of diligence), you should consider how your competences or skills may be broadened or improved through continuing professional education (see Chapter 14 – Continuing Professional Education) or other means. Notarial misconduct includes falling seriously below the standard of service reasonably to be expected of a notary. You should therefore, in addition to the above, consider how you present your practice and how this may affect your clients’ expectations.
- You deal with clients promptly and courteously and in a manner appropriate to the circumstances of the client.
- You provide to clients requesting notarial services clear and accurate information about the terms on which those services are to be provided.
- Clients have the information they need to make informed decisions about how to achieve their stated aims.
- You do not act in a matter where you do not have the right, the necessary competence or skill, or the proper authorisation to act on those instructions.
- Complaints are dealt with impartially and comprehensively (see also Chapter 7 – Legal and Regulatory Obligations).
- You maintain a high level of competence in carrying out notarial activities and ensure that your legal and practical knowledge is up to date and of sufficient depth for the notarial activities that you carry out.
- Your linguistic competence is adequate for the notarial acts that you prepare, particularly if you prepare notarial acts in languages other than English.
- The information that you provide to clients and prospective clients about your services is set out in clear and unambiguous documentation.
- If you have a website (or your notarial services are included on a website as set out in Practice Rule 14.4), you ensure that such website contains at least the information required by Practice Rule 14.2, so that potential clients are informed of the basis on which your fees are charged, your services, your redress and complaint procedures, and who your Regulator is (see Chapter 9 – Transparency).
- You consider the requirements of the relevant authority or person in the receiving jurisdiction when preparing a notarial act and make your best effort to ensure that your notarial act complies with those requirements, subject to complying with applicable legislation and the Master’s Rules.
- Other than for repeat clients as defined in Practice Rule 8.4, when you accept new instructions you provide the client with the price, service, redress, complaints and regulatory information set out in Practice Rules 8.1 and 8.2. (see Chapter 9 – Transparency).
- When relying on the exemption in Practice Rule 8.4 you ensure that any “repeat client” has previously received adequate information about the services that you are providing and the basis on which fees will be charged and disbursements passed on.
- The cost information that you provide includes details of likely disbursements, and specifies which fees and disbursements are or are not subject to VAT.
- You inform clients, upon accepting instructions, of factors which may affect the estimated fee or disbursements (Practice Rule 8.2.5), and without delay of any change to the total cost of the work to be carried out or the basis on which the fee is to be calculated and seek their approval of the amended total cost or fee basis before proceeding further.
- If you practise as part of a notarial firm, you provide your client with a specific point of contact for handling his or her matter.
- You only carry out notarial activities that are within your competence, including your linguistic competence.
- You identify any deficiencies in your knowledge and/or training, or in the knowledge and/or training of any employed notary or staff, and address those deficiencies so as to maintain a level of competence and knowledge appropriate to the work and level of responsibility in which you, any employed notary, or your staff, are engaged.
- As an employer notary you supervise and regularly check the quality of work being carried out by your employed notary for a client.
- You keep a record of complaints received and any action taken as a result so that systemic complaints issues may be identified and addressed.
- Clients’ enquiries are ignored or left for an unreasonable time without response.
- Responses to clients’ enquiries are unclear or contain errors.
- You fail to take into account any apparent or likely requirements in the receiving jurisdiction when preparing a notarial act.
- You attempt to impose terms of business on clients without bringing those terms to their attention in advance.
- Your client is unaware of who is handling his or her matter.
- Your handling of complaints fails to take proper account of a client’s individual needs, including adequate protection of vulnerable clients and compliance with equality legislation (see also Chapter 8 – Equality of Opportunity and Respect for Diversity and Chapter 12 – Complaints).
- You fail to supervise a person dealing with clients on your behalf adequately with the result that you are unaware of what they are doing and what communications have taken place with clients relating to your notarial activities.