DfE complaints procedure


We value complaints and use information from them to help us improve our services. If something goes wrong or you are dissatisfied with our services, please tell us. Guidance below describes how to make a complaint. It also includes the standards you can expect when you complain and what to do if you remain dissatisfied. 

The Department has separate complaints procedures in place for any dealings you may have with the Insolvency Service and for the handling of access to information requests under the Freedom of Information Act, the Environmental Information Regulations 2004, and the Data Protection Act 1998.

What is a complaint?

The Department’s definition of a complaint is:

‘An expression of dissatisfaction by an individual or group of people about the Department’s action or lack of action, or about the standard of service by or on behalf of the Department’

A complaint may relate to:

  • failure to provide a service
  • inadequate standard of service
  • treatment by or attitude of a member of staff
  • disagreement with a decision where the customer cannot use another procedure (for example an appeal) to resolve the matter
  • the Department’s failure to follow the appropriate administrative process

This list may not cover all instances.

Complaints are not:

  • a routine first-time request for a service
  • issues that are in court or have already been heard by a court or a tribunal
  • disagreement with a decision where a statutory right of appeal exists
  • an attempt to reopen a previously concluded complaint or to have a complaint reconsidered where we have already given our final decision

Who can complain?

Anyone can make a complaint to us, including the representative of someone who is dissatisfied with our service. See also ‘Getting help to make your complaint’ below.

How long do I have to make a complaint?

Normally, you must make your complaint within six months of the event you want to complain about, or finding out that you have a reason to complain.  In exceptional circumstances, we may be able to accept a complaint after the time limit. If you feel that the time limit should not apply to your complaint, please tell us why.

How do I complain?

You can make a complaint in person, by email, by telephone or by text relay.

Your complaint will be handled as follows:

Stage 1 – Informal Resolution

It is easier for us to resolve issues if you notify them quickly and directly to the service concerned. We therefore strongly encourage you, in the first instance, to contact the member of staff with whom you were dealing or the local manager. They will aim to resolve your issue within 5 working days, unless there are exceptional circumstances.

If however, you do not feel this is appropriate – (perhaps you have already pursued this route and remain dissatisfied) - you can raise a formal complaint.

Stage 2 – Formal Complaint

In this stage, your complaint will be fully investigated by a senior member of staff. You can make a formal complaint:

By email:   dfemail@economy-ni.gov.uk

In writing:  

Complaints (Information Management Unit)
Department for the Economy
Massey Avenue

By phone:    028 9052 9256

Text Relay: 18001 028 9052 9900

In person:    Monday to Friday, 9.00 am to 5.00 pm (Address as above)

We will need you to provide us with:

  • your full name and address for correspondence
  • as much as you can about the complaint
  • how you want us to resolve the matter

We will:

  • acknowledge receipt of your complaint within three working days
  • where appropriate, discuss your complaint with you to understand what outcome you are looking for
  • give you a full response to the complaint as soon as possible and within 10 working days
  • tell you if our investigation will take longer than 10 working days.  We will agree revised time limits with you and keep you updated on progress

If you remain dissatisfied after this Stage, you may take your complaint to Stage 3.

Stage 3 – Complaints Officer

You should write to the Department's Complaints Officer giving full details of your complaint and why you remain dissatisfied. The Complaints Officer will review the matter and respond within the timescales as set out in Stage 2.

By email:     dfemail@economy-ni.gov.uk

In writing:   

Complaints Officer
Information Management Unit
Department for the Economy
Massey Avenue

What if I’m still not satisfied?

After we have fully investigated, if you remain dissatisfied with our decision or the way we dealt with your complaint, you can ask the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman to look at your case.

Website:      https://nipso.org.uk/nipso/

By email:      nipso@nipso.org.uk

Complete the online complaints form available at: nipso online complaints form

In writing:    

Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman
Progressive House
33 Wellington Place

Freepost:     Freepost NIPSO
By phone:    Freephone 0800 343 424
                    Switchboard 028 9023 3821

Getting help to make your complaint

We understand that there may be reasons why you are unable, or reluctant, to make a complaint yourself. We accept complaints from the representative of a person who is dissatisfied with our service. We can take complaints from a friend, relative, or an advocate, if you have given them your consent to complain for you.


We are committed to making our service easy to use for all members of the community. In line with our statutory equalities duties, we will always ensure that reasonable adjustments are made to help customers access and use our services. 

If you require assistance putting your complaint in writing, or want this information in another language or format, such as large font, or Braille, please tell us in person, contact us on 028 9052 9900 (text relay 18001 028 9052 9900), or email us at: dfemail@economy-ni.gov.uk.

Making a complaint about top management in the Department

If you are a member of the public or an external stakeholder and your complaint is about a staff member in top management of the department, there is a different procedure for making a complaint.

Top Management in the NI Civil Service and its agencies means the Head of the Civil Service, Permanent Secretaries and anyone in a Grade 3/Deputy Secretary position (or equivalent level). 

Find out more about how to make a complaint about top management on the Department of Finance website at the link below.

Customer Service Complaints Privacy Notice

A privacy notice outlining how personal data will be handled by the Department of the Economy when processing customer service complaints:

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