Complaints Handling Procedure

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We value complaints and use information from them to help us improve.

Service status

A sophisticated criminal cyber-attack has had a major impact on the way SEPA works. We are working through all the services that we provide to understand what we need to do in the short and longer term to restore services. We are approaching this work with a sense of urgency.

Service status update: Customer service complaints

What are we able to do now?

  • We are able to receive customer service complaints and depending on the nature of the complaint we may be able to resolve it.

  • We may not be able to progress complaints within the timescales set out in the Complaint Handling Procedure.

  • Once we receive your complaint, we will log the details and make contact with you to discuss how and when it can be progressed.

What should you do now?

    • your full name, address and a contact telephone number;
    • as much as you can about the complaint;
    • what has gone wrong;
    • how you want us to resolve the matter.


Please note that in response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, all SEPA offices closed on 20 March 2020. Support is still available on line and detailed below.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) is committed to providing high-quality customer services. We value service level complaints and use information from them to help us improve our level of service provided.

If you wish to report an environmental incident/pollution complaint, please note the useful contact details/links within our SEPA contact webpage. If you wish to report a service level complaint, please note the following.

SEPA defines a service complaint as being:

'An expression of dissatisfaction by one or more members of the public about SEPA’s action or lack of action, or, about the standard of service provided by or on behalf of the SEPA.'

SEPA’s Complaints Handling Procedure is in accordance with the requirements of the Model Complaints Handling Procedure published by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO).

This page describes our complaints procedure, how to make a service level complaint and tells you what you can expect from us.

Further detail is contained in our Complaints Handling Procedure – A Guide for Customers leaflet. Due to office access restrictions please forward complaint correspondence by email and not by post.

Our Unacceptable Actions Policy and Procedure describes the actions we may take during the rare examples where we deem behaviour by customers to be unacceptable.

How do I complain?

When complaining, tell us:

  • your full name and address
  • as much as you can about the complaint
  • what has gone wrong
  • how you want us to resolve the matter.

What happens when you have complained?

Our complaints process has two stages

Stage 1 - Frontline Resolution

Frontline resolution aims to quickly resolve straightforward complaints that require little or no investigation. We aim to do this within five working days.

If for any reason we aren't able to resolve your complaint within five working days we will contact you to discuss the options. These may include an extension to the original timescale or, should the case be more complicated than we originally thought, undertaking a more detailed (Stage 2) investigation.

Stage 2 - Investigation

Stage 2 deals with four types of complaint: those that have not been resolved at Stage 1 and those that are complex in nature and require detailed investigation, serious complaints and high risk cases.

When using Stage 2 we will:

  • acknowledge receipt of your complaint within three working days;
  • where appropriate, discuss your complaint with you to understand why you remain dissatisfied and what outcome you are looking for;
  • agree the nature of your complaint;
  • give you a full response to the complaint as soon as possible and within 20 working days.

If the investigation is particularly complex and we need longer than 20 working days to resolve the problem, we will tell you. We will agree revised time limits with you and keep you updated on progress.

Stage 3 - Independent external review - Scottish Public Services Ombudsman

If, having gone through our complaints procedure, you are still dissatisfied you can appeal to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO).

The SPSO cannot normally look at:

  • a complaint that has not completed our complaints procedure. You must have been informed of the outcome of your complaint, at stage 2, before raising it with the SPSO;
  • events that happened, or that you became aware of, more than a year ago; or
  • a matter that has been or is being considered in court.