Service & Conduct Complaints
Service complaints cover issues such as fees, delay or failure to follow instructions.
Conduct complaints are the more serious (and rarer) concerns that the notary may have acted in breach of the rules, illegally, or without a valid practising certificate.
Concerns about service can become conduct complaints if, for example, the poor service is persistently bad or falls seriously below the standard to be expected of a notary. This will be identified in the early stages of the process outlined below.
Issues can arise. There may be concerns. Sometimes a conversation with the notary resolves any misunderstandings. This is an important first step. It may even feel awkward but the notary should listen and try to explain any misunderstanding. This is expected of all notaries. Often this is all that is needed.
If you feel this is not enough, the next step is to contact:
- The Secretary of the Notaries Society if you have instructed a notary
- The Clerk to the Worshipful Company of Scriveners if you have instructed a scrivener notary
If the notary is not a member of either society the Faculty Office will appoint an independent notary from a panel of notaries.
You should write (but not enclosing any original documents) or email with details of the complaint. If you are not sure how to explain your concerns then call ahead for help. It is helpful to head the correspondence “Complaint about X”
This first stage is an informal process designed to resolve concerns quickly. The Secretaries (or the independent notary) will contact the notary and discuss your concerns. The Secretaries are both notaries. This is helpful as they will understand what has (and should have) happened but they will be acting entirely impartially. Suggestions will be made (and hopefully agreement reached) what needs to be done to put things right. This might be, for example, an apology, a refund or some more work.
There is no fee for this.
The role of the Legal Ombudsman in your service complaint
If your concern is not resolved you can refer the complaint to the Legal Ombudsman. The website provides all the necessary information to lodge your complaint and the timescales.
The Legal Ombudsman is funded by all the legal profession. It is entirely independent and impartial.
The Faculty Office is unlikely to look at your concern until the Legal Ombudsman has considered the case. The Legal Ombudsman will notify the Faculty Office is it thinks there is a conduct concern.
The Legal Ombudsman can require the notary, for example, to do more work or refund fees but it can also award compensation.
The Legal Ombudsman has powers of enforcement if a notary does not comply with its order.
There is no fee for this.
If you are having difficulty raising a concern about a notary because it is difficult to speak openly (for example, if you work for the notary), see our Whistleblowing Information. These most serious of complaints and can involve dishonesty or actions which bring the entire profession into disrepute. Where the Faculty Office, or one of the societies, receives a complaint which clearly shows, or suggests, professional misconduct, then the Faculty Office will appoint a ‘Nominated Notary’ to formally investigate the matter and if appropriate commence formal proceedings in the Court of Faculties. The first task of the nominated notary is to establish if “prima facie” (on the face of the matter) there is a case to answer. This means a “first look” and is not a detailed review.
If the nominated notary decides that prima facie there is a case of notarial misconduct they will report and put the allegations formally to the notary and the notary will write a reply.
Guidance notes for the Nominated Notary provide help for that notary in preparing and bringing the case before the Court. Formal complaints are heard by a Judge of the Court (known as the Commissary) who sits with two Assessors, one a notary and one a ‘lay’ person (someone who is not a notary).
It is at this stage when the Court of Faculties takes control of the proceedings. Directions for the timetable and service of documents are made by the Commissary.
The hearing will be in public. The notary may have legal representation.
A client of the notary could bring the case themselves but usually the nominated notary steps in as the complainant for the proceedings. This can reflect the complexity but also recognises that conduct complaints are a matter of public trust and protection.
What might be ordered as a sanction?
Both the Registrar of the Faculty Office and the Court of the Faculties can make interim suspension orders for the protection of the public. These will be noted against the notary’s name in the Find a Notary search
The Court can order:
- the suspension of the notary and for the notary to be struck off.
- conditions on the practice of the notary such as supervision
- further training
- a “rebuke”
Allowing for the period for appeal, the case report and sanctions will be published and will be noted against the notary’s name in the Find a Notary search as soon as the report is published.
The Court can order the notary to pay for the losses of the complainant (or client who brought the complaint). In addition to the costs of the individual case, the Court may order the notary to make a payment into the indemnity fund to cover the general costs of the Court.
The Court cannot issue fines.