Message from The Ombudsman
Making a complaint is not just about venting one’s feelings. It can be that and more. A well articulated complaint could be a catalyst for change. Someone else need not suffer what happened to you.

This Office has always been an advocate of a positive complaint culture. By providing essential and accurate information in a dispassionate and objective manner, complainants make it easier for their complaints to be followed up.

This booklet provides guidance on important issues to be included when making a complaint. It tells you what you can expect as a complainant. It also reminds you of your own responsibilities. Used well, complaint handling procedures can work to the mutual benefit of both the complainant and the organisations concerned. I hope you find it useful.

This booklet complements a number of other publications on key aspects of complaint handling, produced by this Office as part of our efforts to bring about improvement in the quality of public administration in Hong Kong. 

Alice Tai
The Ombudsman

 
Tips for Making a Proper Complaint
Most public organisations have established complaint-handling procedures to ensure that people who are not connected with the complaint handle your complaint at an appropriate level. Complaining directly to an organisation gives it an opportunity to address your concerns within the shortest time possible. Alerting senior management to perceived deficiencies also help the organisation to identify changes that may be justified. Your complaint can therefore lead to improvements that may benefit other people in similar circumstances. Attached is a telephone list of those government departments and public organisations that you would most likely come across in your daily life.
   
The rights and responsibilities of complainants
As a complainant, you have the right to expect -
fair treatment
scourtesy
timely response and accurate advice
respect for one’s privacy
reasons for decision
   
At the same time, you have certain responsibilities that include -
providing timely and accurate information to support your complaint
treating the organisation’s staff with courtesy
adopting a reasonable and open-minded attitude
   
Key points for complainants
 
1. Black and white is best

The best way to lodge a complaint is to do so in writing. This ensures accuracy of your complaint points. It also avoids the organisation dodging the issue. To assist complainants, many organisations have complaint forms to help you organize and present your complaint.

If you are not clear about who to complain to or whether your grievances are valid, you can telephone the organisation to inquire. This should help you to clarify the relevant issues and establish the complaint procedures. Identifying the appropriate person would also help to shorten the time taken to process your complaint. Sometimes if the matter is not complicated, the organisation may offer to resolve it over the phone.

When you phone, always establish whom it is that you are speaking to. Ask for his name and position. Tell him briefly about your complaint. Ask him how he can help. Keep a note of the date and time of the call, as well as the gist of what was said. If you have doubts about whether your concerns are being properly addressed, follow up by a written complaint.

Unless it is trivial matter that lends itself to quick resolution over the phone, it is always best to write. A complaint in black and white cannot be misunderstood or overlooked. Someone at some stage will have to answer your letter, and a written complaint is more likely to be directed to the right person for handling. 

 
2. Address it to the person responsible
As a general rule, you should direct your complaint to the supervisor of the person or the activity that you are complaining about. Write to the head of the organisation if you do not know who is responsible. Most organisations have a complaint-handling unit to ensure that complaints are directed to the right office for action. 
 
3. Identify yourself
When you lodge a complaint, it is important that you identify yourself and leave your address or a means of contact. The organisation may need to get in touch with you to clarify your complaint points or discuss solutions to your problem. Do not send anonymous complaints. Anonymous complaints pose great difficulties in investigations and follow-up. Some organisations, like the Office of The Ombudsman, are prohibited by law from investigating anonymous complaints. Other organisations may have a policy not to take follow-up action. In general, organisations expect the complainant to be the aggrieved person. If you feel strong enough to complain, you should be prepared to stand up and be counted.
 
4. What to include in your complaint statement
Summarize your complaint as best as you can. Make your points clearly and succinctly. There is no need to go into excessive details. Try to set out logically –
the relevant dates, times, place and persons involved
a description of the events that give rise to your complaint
details of what was said and whether there were witnesses or corroborating evidence
copies of documents relevant to the complaint
any explanations you think are important.
 
Attach copies of the relevant documents to your complaint letter.
 
5. Tell them what you need
ndicate what action you wish the organisation to take to resolve your problem. Do not go on the offence if you are not given what you want. Politeness goes a long way in enlisting other people’s help to meet your request. If a genuine mistake has been made, the persons or organisation concerned would normally be very willing to rectify their mistake or omission. Being abusive would only serve to antagonize and harden attitudes. It will not help resolve the problem, but only lead to more frustration and anger.
 
Make sure that your demands are reasonable. Unreasonable demands or demands that breach existing policies will not get you very far. If your request is realistic and within the power of the person you are writing to, you are more likely to get a satisfactory outcome to your complaint. 
 
6. Ask for action
Most organisations acknowledge receipt of letters, but they most likely would not acknowledge phone calls received. If the organisation does not tell you when they expect your complaint can be dealt with, you may ask them for an indication. Complaint handling can be a lengthy process. Your complaint will be one of many that the organisation has to deal with. If there is a degree of urgency involved in your case, let them know and explain why.
 
7. Tell them what you will do if the complaint is not resolved
Be firm but polite. If you intend to take the matter to a higher authority or to adopt a particular course of appeal, it may be appropriate to put the person or organisation on notice. Try not to give the organisation an impression that you are threatening them. It achieves little and may only serve to aggravate an already tense relationship.
 
8. Keep records
Keep copies of correspondence and other documentation relating to your complaint. This includes details of telephone calls. Very often, you will be asked to provide supporting documents or evidence to substantiate your complaint. It helps if you can produce these readily.
 
9. Be persistent
If nothing happens after a reasonable period of time, phone the organisation to check on progress. Sometimes you may have to write again to exert a suitable degree of pressure.
 
10. What to do if unsuccessful
If your complaint is not properly resolved, or is not dealt with in a reasonable time, you may want to take it to a higher authority or may bring it to the attention of some independent outside organisations. Attached is a list, though not exhaustive, of the telephone numbers of various organisations that can deal with complaints about particular matters.
 

Appendix 1

 

List of General enquiry/complaint telephone numbers of various government departments and public organisations (as at 1 July 2005)

 
Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department 27088885
      1823
Airport Authority, Hong Kong 21887111
Architectural Services Department
(General Enquiry ( Handled by Integrated Call Centre 1823))
28673628
Architectural Services Department
(Complaints Hotline on new works sites)
25237017
Architectural Services Department
(Repair Call Centre Hotline)
23301100

Audit Commission

28294210

Auxiliary Medical Service

27622033

Broadcasting Authority 28278488

Buildings Department

26261616
Census and Statistics Department

25824807

Civil Aid Service 28056020
Civil Aviation Department (Enquiry Hotline) 28674332
Civil Aviation Department (Complaints Hotline) 28674203
Civil Aviation Department (Aircraft Noise Complaints Hotline) 27696969
Civil Engineering and Development Department 27625111
Companies Registry 22349933
Correctional Services Department (General Enquiry) 25825117
Correctional Services Department (Complaints Hotline) 25743505
Customs and Excise Department 28157711
Drainage Services Department (Customer Services Enquiry (Sewage Charges)) 28770660
Drainage Services Department (Complaint Hotline (24-hour)) 23001110
Drainage Services Department (Other Enquiry) 28770660
Electrical and Mechanical Services Department 28828011
Employees Retraining Board 23116306
Environmental Protection Department 28383111
Equal Opportunities Commission 25118211
Fire Services Department 27238787
Food and Environmental Hygiene Department 28680000
Government Flying Service 23058212
Government Laboratory 27623700
Government Logistics Department (General Enquiry) 22315105
21641198
Government Logistics Department (Auction Matters) 28969880
Government Logistics Department (Land Transport Matters) 22315240
Government Logistics Department (Printing Services) 25649500
Government Logistics Department (Procurement and Tenders matters) 22315289
Government Property Agency 25947604
Department of Health 29618989
Highways Department 29264111
Home Affairs Department 28352500
Hong Kong Arts Development Council 28278786
Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority 28349922
Hong Kong Housing Authority and Housing Department  27122712 
Hong Kong Housing Society 28821717
Hong Kong Monetary Authority (Public Enquiry Hotline) 28788222
Hong Kong Monetary Authority (Complaint about Banking Services) 28781378
Hong Kong Observatory 29268200
Hong Kong Post ( General Enquiry) 29212222
Hong Kong Post ( Suggestions and Customer Care Hotlines: Counter Services) 25255856
Hong Kong Post ( Suggestions and Customer Care Hotlines: Mail Delivery) 27233454
Hong Kong Post ( Suggestions and Customer Care Hotlines: Street Posting Boxes) 23562516
Hong Kong Sports Institute Limited 26816888
Hospital Authority (General Enquiry) 23006555
Hospital Authority (Head Office Complaint Hotline) 23007125
Immigration Department 28246111
Information Services Department 25227662
Inland Revenue Department 25945000
Intellectual Property Department 29616901
Invest Hong Kong 31071000
Joint Secretariat for the Advisory Bodies on Civil Service and Judicial Salaries and Conditions of Service 29128523
Judiciary 28690869
Department of Justice 28672198
Kowloon Canton Railway Corporation 29293399
Labour Department 27171771
Land Registry 31050000
Lands Department 22313294
Legal Aid Department 25377677
Legislative Council Secretariat, Complaints Division 25264027
Leisure and Cultural Services Department 24145555
Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Authority 29180102
Marine Department

25423711
28524345

Official Receiver's Office 28672448
Planning Department 22315000
Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, Hong Kong 28272827
Public Service Commission, Secretariat of 25235755
Radio Television Hong Kong 23396300
Rating and Valuation Department 21520111
Registration and Electoral Office 28911001
Securities and Futures Commission (General) 28409222
Securities and Futures Commission (SFC infoline (General Information and information for intermediaties)) 28409393
Securities and Futures Commission (Investor Hotline) 28409333
Social Welfare Department 23432255
Student Financial Assistance Agency 28022345
Office of the Telecommunications Authority 29616333
Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority 25945883
Trade and Industry Department 23985649
Transport Department 28042600
Treasury 28295124
University Grants Committee Secretariat 25243987
Urban Renewal Authority 25882333
Vocational Training Council 28361000
Water Supplies Department 28245000

Appendix 2

List of telephone numbers of various organisations which can deal with complaints about particular matters (as at 1 July 2005)

Central Traffic Prosecution Bureau 28666552
Complaint Against Police Office (24 Hour hotline) 28667700
Consumer Council 29292222
Estate Agents Authority 21178600
Hong Kong Bar Association 28690210
Hong Kong Exchange and Clearing Limited 28403895
Independent Police Complaints Council 25243841
Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) 25266366
ICAC Complaints Committee 28103503
Legal Aid Services Council 28385378
Review Body on Bid Challenges 23985449
The Law Society of Hong Kong 28460500
The Medical Council of Hong Kong 28735131
28734853
Transport Complaints Unit 28899999