Complaint Procedures Against Advertisers
ADVERTISING COMPLAINT PROCEDURES FOR NONMEMBERS
The following procedures shall be followed in instituting and resolving complaints that an Advertiser of the Association (who is not a member of the Association) has violated the Code of Professional Ethics (COPE). Complaints against Advertisers who are Members of the Association are handled under the Code of Professional Ethics Complaint Procedures.
The Committee will not consider any complaints based on acts occurring prior to November 1, 2011.
Advertisers may continue to advertise with NCRA while a complaint is pending.
“Executive Director” refers to the Executive Director or his or her designated representative.
“Advertising Venue” includes but is not limited to the Association’s print publications, online directories, online forums, social media, website, Sourcebook, meeting exhibits, sponsorships and meeting advertisements.
A. Filing and Investigation of Complaints
1. Any person may file a complaint against an Advertiser with NCRA who is not a Member of the Association on an approved NCRA complaint form, or in a format meeting the requirements set forth in Paragraph A.2. The Executive Director shall promptly acknowledge receipt of all complaints. The Executive Director shall send a copy of these complaint procedures, the CODE and the NCRA Advertising Policy to the person making the complaint. If the complaint does not contain all of the required information, the Executive Director shall advise the person making the complaint that further information must be provided before any further action can be taken, and shall specify what further information is required. Any complaint not meeting the requirements of Paragraph A.2. will not be considered.
2. All complaints must be in writing, signed by the person making the complaint, and addressed to the Executive Director of the Association. All complaints must contain the name and address of the Advertiser complained against, a description of the conduct complained of, and references to the specific provisions of the Code involved in the complaint. In addition, the complaint must include all pertinent documentation which is made to substantiate the complaint available at the time the complaint. All complaints must be signed by the complainant and the complainant must affirm that the facts stated in the complaint are true and accurate to the best of the complainant's knowledge and belief. The complaint must also contain the complainant's consent for the Association's disclosure of the complaint to the Advertiser complained against, the members of the Committee of Professional Ethics, and Association directors, officers and appropriate staff.
3. Despite the satisfaction of all the requirements of Paragraph A.2, the NCRA Executive Director, the Chair of the Committee and a NCRA staff liaison to the Committee may determine, in their sole discretion, not to send the complaint to the full Committee if the complaint (a) fails to state grounds upon which the Committee may recommend action; or (b) is beyond the scope or authority of the Committee. If the complaint involves purely business practice issues or ethics and business practice issues as determined by COPE, the complaint will be referred first to alternative dispute resolution to address those issues outside the scope of the Committee. After the business practice issues have been resolved, the complainant may file an ethics complaint with COPE.
If the complaint is not sent to the full Committee for the reasons set forth above, the NCRA Executive Director shall inform the complainant in writing of such fact and the reasons why the full Committee will not consider the complaint. The complainant may then make a request to the full Committee to review the decision not to send the complaint to the full Committee at its next scheduled meeting. The Committee may, at that point, decide to consider a complaint that had been previously dismissed.
4. Once a complaint is accepted for processing, NCRA will send all written communications to the person making the complaint and the Advertiser complained against by certified mail, overnight express courier or hand delivery. The Executive Director shall forward a copy of the complaint to the Advertiser complained against, along with a copy of these complaint procedures, and a copy of the appropriate Code of Professional Ethics, and request that the Advertiser respond to the complaint in writing within thirty (30) days from the date of the letter of notification. A copy of any response received shall be forwarded to all other parties.
5. NCRA shall keep confidential all records, documents, files and evidence pertaining to a complaint, and proceedings will be closed to the public, except as may be necessary for compliance with these complaint procedures or to take ancillary action with respect thereto, or unless ordered otherwise by a court or agency of competent jurisdiction.
Any party initiating a complaint shall agree in writing not to disclose all or part of any record, document, file, evidence, the decision of the Committee or any decision of the Board as well as to indemnify and hold harmless the Association from any claim or action that may result from such improper disclosure. Furthermore, any party violating these confidentiality provisions shall be subject to sanctions under these procedures.
Should an Advertiser cancel his or her advertising agreement with NCRA while an ethics complaint is pending, the Committee shall complete the processing of the complaint as specified in these procedures.
B. Proceedings by the Committee on Professional Ethics
1. When the thirty-day (30) period has elapsed, the Executive Director shall forward the complaint, documents submitted, and the response, if any, to the Committee on Professional Ethics. The Committee on Professional Ethics may reach its decision based on the complaint and the response, if any, or may ask the Executive Director to obtain additional information. The Committee may also grant an opportunity for the person making the complaint and the Advertiser complained of to be heard either in person, through legal counsel or in a format agreed to by all parties. If the Committee determines there are disputed issues of fact that are material to its decision, it may grant any party an opportunity to present relevant information, including documents and witnesses, and an opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses called by any party. The Committee shall be the judge of the relevance and materiality of any information offered, and conformity to legal rules of evidence shall not be necessary.
2. The Committee shall thereafter prepare a written decision containing its findings of fact and conclusions. It may issue a cautionary letter, warning or statement of advice to the Advertiser. The Committee may on a case-by-case basis require Advertisers to take one or more ethics seminars. The Advertiser will be informed of this requirement in their decision letter.
Alternatively, the Committee may decide that the Advertiser be denied the opportunity to advertise for up to one (1) year in any Association advertising venues, or may order that the Advertiser be permanently banned from advertising. Such a decision shall not become effective unless it is sustained by the Board of Directors in accordance with the Constitution and Bylaws. The Committee decision for suspension or expulsion or certification revocation requires a two-thirds (2/3) vote of the Board of Directors at a meeting at which a quorum is present.
3. The Committee shall inform all parties as to the status of the complaint within ninety (90) days after the case is received by the Committee from the Executive Director. If a hearing is scheduled, the Committee shall render its decision within sixty (60) days after the hearing is completed. Notwithstanding the above, the Committee may suspend the processing of the complaint pending the outcome of any related administrative, civil or criminal proceedings, or for any other reason deemed appropriate by the Committee to ensure fairness or due process for all parties.
1. The Executive Director shall promptly send a copy of the decision of the Committee on Professional Ethics to the person making the complaint and the Advertiser complained against. If a party wishes to appeal the Committee’s decision, such appeal must be filed in writing to the Board of Directors within 30 days from the date of the letter notifying all parties of the Committee’s decision. The appeal must specify the grounds upon which the party contends the Committee's decision is erroneous and should be revised.
2. If no appeal is taken within the thirty-day (30) period from a decision by the Committee on Professional Ethics, the Committee’s decision will be final and a copy of the decision will be placed in the Advertiser’s confidential file; provided that the Board of Directors shall sustain any decision to suspend or permanently revoke an Advertiser’s ability to advertise in any Association advertising venue.
3. If an appeal is received within the thirty-day (30) period, the Executive Director shall forward it to the other parties to the proceed¬ing. Any party to the proceeding desiring to respond to the appeal must do so within fifteen (15) days from the date of the Committee’s letter of notification that an appeal has been made. When the fifteen-day (15) period has elapsed, the Executive Director shall forward to the Board of Directors the appeal, any response, and all other documentation relating to the matter. The Board may decide the matter on the basis of these documents, or may grant a request for oral argument made by any party, in person or through their attorney. The Board may affirm, reverse, modify or return the decision to the Committee on Professional Ethics for further review with specific reasons therefor.
D. Costs and Expenses
1. Each party shall bear his or her own costs and expenses with respect to any proceeding, except in regard to an appeal of the Committee’s decision. In that case, at the discretion of the Executive Director, each party shall be required to bear the costs for producing copies of all documents necessary for the Board to review and decide the appeal.