Flow diagram showing complaint escalation processThe following represents necessary steps when filing a complaint against an accredited Certification Body (CB or “registrar”), or an IAF-signatory Accreditation Body. It does not apply to filing complaints against unaccredited, or self-accredited, certificate mills.

This also only applies if you wish to file the complaint yourself. If you are uncertain how to do this, or are afraid of repercussions by the various parties, consider filing an ISO Whistleblower Report instead.

This procedure is not to be used for contesting an audit finding or nonconformance. In such cases, you file an “appeal” to your CB (registrar); see this helpful article on how to challenge a invalid finding from your registrar. If that fails, then you may file a complaint.

To process a complaint against a CB, and possibly escalate it to higher bodies, you must follow this order. If you skip any step, the particular party will just throw it back until you follow the sequence.

STEP ONE: File the Complaint Directly to your CB (Registrar)

You must first submit the complaint directly to the CB. Do not send to a sales representative, but try to find out the proper person within the CB responsible for processing complaints. You can call the CB to find this out, but resist their requests for information on the complaint, as they will try to resolve it over the phone to avoid a formal record. Simply ask for the contact name, and thank them.

  • Submit the complaint in writing. Email is fine, but maintain records of all your communications. Consider using this helpful template (.DOCX file, right click and save to your local drive.)
  • Request that the CB acknowledge receipt, and wait.
  • Resist all attempts by the CB to resolve the problem over the phone or in person. CBs and auditors try to resolve issues “informally” to prevent a record from being made, and to keep it unseen by Accreditation Bodies; this is deadly to your eventual success. Ensure that the problem is resolved in writing, and that the CB is using their official corrective action process to investigate. You must ensure they maintain a record. If they demand a phone call, record it; but you must tell them in advance that you intend to do so, in order to comply with the law.
  • If the CB reacts with hostility, or with threats of litigation, end the contact. Coordinate with your internal Legal Department.
  • Allow proper time for the CB to investigate and respond.
  • Do not assume you are right; your case may not be as strong as you think. The CB may have a very valid reason for the problem, and their response may be entirely acceptable. Make sure you assess any response with an open mind.
  • If the response is inadequate, write back and tell them so. You may give them another chance to clarify things, but it’s optional.
  • If you are certain you have a firm complaint and the response was inadequate, you may now move to Step Two.

STEP TWO: Escalate Complaint About CB to the Accreditation Body

  • Find out which Accreditation Body (AB) is responsible for the accreditation of the CB in your region. This will usually be the AB whose logo appears on your ISO certificate; for example “ANAB” or “UKAS.” You may also check by verifying your CB’s website.
  • Find out the appropriate contact within the AB with whom to file complaints. For ANAB, the complaint portal may be found online, at this link.
  • Rewrite your original CB complaint, but this time reword it as a request for the AB to investigate the CB.
  • In addition to the bulk of your complaint, add a new charge against the CB alleging they violated “ISO 17021-1 Clause 9.8 on Complaints Processing.” You should buy ISO 17021-1 to get informed on what that is.
  • Obtain acknowledgement of receipt, and wait.
  • Again, maintain written contact with the AB about your complaint, and resist any “informal” attempts to resolve the issue.
  • If the AB’s response is inadequate, you may move to Step Three.

STEP THREE: File Complaint Against the AB with the AB

  • If the AB’s response to your CB complaint is inadequate, you have to file a complaint against the AB itself for improper complaints processing. You will reference the original complaint, but now the focus is on the AB, requesting it investigate itself and taken internal corrective action.
  • Now you will also allege that the AB violated “ISO 17011 Clause on Complaints Processing.” That’s a different standard, and you can buy that here to get informed on what that means.
  • If the AB’s response to this complaint is inadequate, move on to Step Four.

STEP FOUR: Escalate the Complaint Against the AB to the Regional Accreditation Group

  • If the AB’s response is still inadequate, you can escalate to the “Regional Accreditation Group” (RAG). These are collectives of Accreditation Bodies in key regions on the world, as follows:
    • AFRICA: African Accreditation Cooperation (AFRAC)
    • AMERICAS: Inter American Accreditation Cooperation (IACC)
    • ARAB REGION: Arab Accreditation Cooperation (ARAC)
    • EUROPE: European Co-operation for Accreditation (EA)
    • ASIA, AUSTRALIA & NEW ZEALAND: Asian Pacific Accreditation Cooperation (APAC)
    • SOUTH AFRICA: South African Development Community Cooperation in Accreditation (SADCA)
  • Some of these regions are unclear, so you can check this IAF page for more details, or contact the IAF for clarity on which RAG applies to your region.
  • Include the entire text of your original complaint against the AB, and ask the RAG to investigate the AB accordingly.
  • If the RAG’s response is inadequate, proceed to Step Five.

STEP FIVE: Escalate to the International Accreditation Forum

  • The final step is to escalate the matter to the full International Accreditation Forum (IAF). Submit this to secretary@iaf.nu and frame the complaint as one against the CB, AB and the RAG for two concerns: (1) failing to adequately address the original complaint against the CB, and (2) failing to properly process a complaint lodged against the AB itself.
  • At this point, you are up so high the air is very thin, and the process is highly secretive. All you can do is wait.

If after all this you still do not get an adequate response, don’t be alarmed. The scheme is typically “conflicted” in that each party above gets paid by the party below it, ensuring conflicts of interest and cronyism abound. In such cases,  contact Oxebridge for what other options you may have.