Our complaints process

Find out what happens when you submit a complaint to us


We welcome complaints and the valuable insights they give us. You can bring concerns to our attention which may merit investigation, supporting our work to protect and improve the environment by holding government and other public authorities to account. However, we are not able to investigate every complaint we receive. Any information provided is still valuable to us and we may use it in our broader work.

What we cannot do

We cannot:

  • provide legal advice or mediate in disputes
  • put right a personal injustice
  • provide compensation
  • always be on your side when you complain to us

The stages of our complaints process

Stage 1. Before you complain to us

If the public authority has a relevant internal complaints procedure, you need to complete this before complaining to OEP. Find out more about what we can investigate.

You will also need to gather evidence related to your complaint. Find out more about submitting a complaint.

Stage 2. Submit your complaint to us

You can submit a complaint using our online form or by downloading a copy to fill in and post or email back to us. Our complaints form has been designed to be filled in by anyone. Find out more about submitting a complaint.

We will acknowledge your complaint and give it an ID number. Please use this ID number in all further correspondence with us about your complaint.

Stage 3. We check if your complaint meets our criteria

We will carry out an initial check to confirm that your complaint meets the criteria for complaining to the OEP. Find out more about what we can investigate.

At this stage, we may contact you to clarify details or to ask for more information. That’s why we ask for your email or postal address.

If we think that your complaint does not meet our criteria, we will let you know and explain why.

Stage 4. We assess your complaint in more detail

If our initial check suggests that your complaint meets our criteria, we will assess the complaint in more detail.

We will:

  • review the evidence to understand which environmental laws may have been broken
  • contact the public authority to confirm that you have completed its complaint procedure, if they have one
  • ask the public authority for its comments and any relevant evidence it is able to supply, in some cases

If we think that your complaint does not meet the criteria and there is no further evidence you can provide to change that, we will write to you and let you know the reasons why.

Stage 5. We decide if we will investigate

We will consider whether the complaint is something we should investigate. We will decide this based on the criteria outlined in our enforcement policy and strategy. As part of this, we will determine whether a potential failure to comply would be a serious failure.

We will let you know whether we will investigate your complaint or not.

Stage 6. We investigate your complaint

Where we decide to investigate, the purpose of the investigation will be to assess whether or not the public authority has broken environmental law. If we think it has, we can make recommendations to address the failure.

We may ask you or the public authority for more information as we undertake the investigation.

We will keep you updated on our progress with your complaint. However, for reasons of confidentiality and legal restrictions we may not be able to provide you with specific details of our investigation while it is underway.

Stage 7. Outcome

We will produce an investigation report recording our conclusions and recommendations at the end of every investigation, unless we take a case to court. Where we take a case to court, the court judgment replaces the need for a report.

We will publish our investigation reports in full unless we think there are good reasons to only publish extracts or to withhold publication.

Managing conflicts of interest

We have put measures in place to manage potential conflicts of interest:

  • our staff have access to independent legal advice
  • our staff work under the leadership and direction of an independent Board
  • complaints are handled and processed on an independent IT system

You might also be interested in

Find out more about what you can complain to us about and who we can hold to account.

What we can investigate

Find out how you can submit a complaint to the OEP. Our service is free and open to anyone.

Submitting a complaint

Still unsure about something?

Our Frequently Asked Questions looks at the complaints process and the wider role of the OEP.

View our FAQs