DfE complaints procedure


The Department for the Economy is committed to providing the highest standard of service to all its customers. However if you are unhappy about the quality of the service you have received please tell us and we will do our best to resolve the matter as quickly as possible.

The department has separate complaint procedures in place: for any dealings you may have with its Insolvency Service; for applications made to its Public Appointments Unit; about its Equality Scheme; 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 2018. These procedures can be found at:

What types of complaint are covered by this procedure?

This complaints procedure is designed to address any specific concerns our customers have about the quality of service provided by our staff. For example this might include:

  • avoidable delays, for example, in receiving information or responses
  • difficulty in contacting the correct office
  • incorrect information or guidance issued by the department
  • attitude and conduct of our staff 
  • failure to follow the appropriate administrative processes 
  • disagreement with a decision where the customer cannot use another procedure (for example, an appeal) to resolve the matter.

This procedure can also apply to any complaint against the department for which no other appeal method is available, with the exception of:

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

If your complaint falls into the above categories, we will redirect it to the appropriate business area to respond in line with its procedures.

How do I complain under this procedure?

You, or someone on your behalf, can make a complaint as follows:

Stage 1 – Informal resolution

It is easier to resolve issues if you notify the department quickly and directly to the service area concerned. We therefore ask you, in the first instance, to contact the member of staff with whom you were dealing or their manager. They will aim to resolve your issue within five working days, unless there are exceptional circumstances.

However, if you have already pursued this route and you remain dissatisfied, you can raise a formal complaint.

Stage 2 – Formal complaint

You can raise a formal complaint up to six months either after an event occurred or after you become aware of an issue, unless exceptional circumstances apply which allow the department to extend this time limit. You can make a formal complaint:

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

In writing to:  

Complaints (Information Management Unit)
Department for the Economy
Adelaide House
39-49 Adelaide Street

By phone to: 028 9052 9900

By Text Relay to: 18001 028 9052 9900

In person: Monday to Friday, 9.00 am to 5.00 pm at the above address (excluding bank holidays). If possible, please email DfEMail@economy-ni.gov.uk or telephone 028 9052 9900 to arrange a suitable day and time. 

If you need help putting your complaint in writing, need this information in another language or format, (such as large font, or braille) or have other accessibility or supportive requirements, please tell us using any of the contact details 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
  • carry out a thorough investigation
  • give you a full response to the complaint as soon as possible and within 15 working days or tell you if our investigation will take longer than 15 working days
  • apologise if we have made a mistake or if a problem has been caused by us
  • let you know of any planned actions or changes in systems as a result of your complaint.

Stage 3 – Review of formal complaint

If you are dissatisfied with the department’s response issued at Stage 2 of this procedure, you can write to the Departmental Complaints Officer within 30 days of receiving that response (unless exceptional circumstances apply which allow the department to extend this time limit) giving full details of your complaint and why you remain dissatisfied. The Departmental Complaints Officer will arrange for an independent review of how your complaint was handled to be conducted.

The contact details and timescales are as set out above at 'Stage 2 – Formal complaint'.

Stage 3 is the final stage of this procedure.

    Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman

    If you remain dissatisfied with our final decision or the way we dealt with your complaint, you can ask the Northern Ireland Public Service Ombudsman (NIPSO) to look at your case.

    You should note that the Ombudsman will generally expect you to have completed the department’s complaints procedure before accepting your complaint. You will need to contact NIPSO within six months of the date of the department’s final response to you about your complaint.

    NIPSO’s contact details are set out below:

    Website: NIPSO website

    By email: nipso@nipso.org.uk

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

    In writing:    

    Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman
    Progressive House
    33 Wellington Place
    BT1 6HN

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

    Making a complaint about top management in the department

    Top management in the Northern Ireland 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. 

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

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

    Unacceptable behaviour by customers

    The Department for the Economy appreciates that customers may wish to complain about matters which are very important to them and that some customers may find raising and discussing these matters frustrating and distressing.

    However, the department asks customers to treat its staff with respect in order to help it understand and deal with their complaints in the best manner possible.

    For further information about this, please read our Unacceptable Behaviour by Customers Policy.

    DfE complaints procedure privacy notice

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

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