Making a complaint against a private organisation
Different industries can have different ways of dealing with complaints. Find out who to complain to about private companies, radio and television channels and advertising, and how to prevent unwanted emails, faxes and telephone calls.
Many industries have their own ombudsman scheme or other complaint-handling body. These provide independent and impartial means of resolving disputes outside the courts.
Each ombudsman scheme operates under slightly different rules. In general though, an ombudsman will not consider a complaint unless the organisation concerned has first been given a reasonable opportunity to deal with it.
The British and Irish Ombudsman Association provides a list of each of these complaint-handling bodies and their contact details.
Complaints about newspapers or magazines
The Press Complaints Commission is an independent body which deals with complaints from members of the public about the editorial content of newspapers and magazines. The service to the public is free to use and the Commission aims to deal with most complaints in 32 working days.
Complaints about adverts
If you need to to complain about an advert, you can read the Directgov article 'Misleading or offensive advertising'.
Complaints about the BBC or other television/radio channels
The BBC has its own process set up for dealing with complaints about the radio and television programmes it broadcasts. You will usually need to complain within 12 weeks of the programme transmission or event. The BBC website has details about the full complaints procedure and the BBC Complaints Code of Practice.
Ofcom the UK regulator for television, radio, telecommunications and wireless communications deals with complaints about all broadcasters (including the BBC). You can also use their website to look up the contact details for specific broadcasters, if you would like to complain to them directly.
Reducing spam and email marketing
Spam is the common name for unrequested and unwanted email.The responsibility for prohibiting the sending of spam lies with The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) - an independent public body set up to promote access to official information and protect personal information. The ICO website provides general information about spam and gives advice about the steps you can take to prevent or reduce spam.
There are laws on email marketing which give you rights of privacy with respect to the processing and sharing of your personal data by companies. If you believe that your details were used or shared when they shouldn't have been, you can contact the ICOs complaints service. This gives you the right to ask the Commissioner to exercise enforcement functions.
Removing yourself from phone and junk mail distribution lists
The preference services listed below have been set up by the direct mail industry to enable consumers to have their names and home addresses in the UK removed from or added to lists used by the industry. It is free to register with each of them.
Mail - the Mailing Preference Service can remove your details from up to 95 per cent of direct mailing lists. However, this will not stop mail that has been sent from overseas, or unaddressed material, or mail addressed to 'The Occupier'. You can also expect to continue to receive mailings from companies with whom you have done business in the past and you may also receive mailings from small, local companies.
Telephone - it is unlawful for companies to make unsolicited direct marketing calls to individuals who have indicated that they do not want to receive them. You can indicate this either by contacting the companies directly and asking them not to call you or by providing your details to a central register called the Telephone Preference Service.
Fax - there is also a similar service available to prevent unwanted faxes the Fax Preference Service.
The Bereavement Register
The Bereavement Register will remove from databases and mailing files, the names and addresses of people who have died. The service is free.
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