Unacceptable contact

Ad Standards is committed to being fair, accessible and responsive when dealing with the public and taking complaints.

We recognise that people making complaints to us may be stressed, frustrated or upset; and that people who contact Ad Standards have diverse backgrounds and needs. However, we do not tolerate behaviour that is offensive, abusive, threatening or consumes disproportionate resources.

Where this is the case, we may take steps to reduce any detrimental impact of such behaviour on our staff, and Ad Standards’ productivity and resources.

What is ‘unreasonable behaviour’?

‘Unreasonable behaviour’ means any behaviour by an individual which, because of its nature or frequency, raises health, safety, resource or equity issues for Ad Standards, its staff and other service users.

Examples of unreasonable behaviour include:

  • use of abusive, obscene or threatening language, or comments of a personal nature
  • repeated contact by a complainant after we have comprehensively considered and finalised their complaint, including repeated unnecessary phone calls or refusal to end telephone conversations
  • persistent demands on how Ad Standards should handle a complaint, the priority it should be given, or the outcome that should be achieved
  • persistent or lengthy letter writing (or contact by email) which is adding nothing to the matter
  • aside from in exceptional circumstances, large numbers of complaints in a short timescale from the same individual
  • the volume of complaints from an individual is disproportionate or are otherwise vexatious
  • a continual unwillingness by a person to cooperate with our staff and processes
  • constant and repeated arguments that are not based on reason or logic, that are incomprehensible, false, inflammatory or trivial
  • acts of aggression, threats, abuse, derogatory, racist or defamatory remarks

Unreasonable behaviour is not limited to telephone communications or face-to-face interactions. It can occur over the internet, on social media, in public locations or in written correspondence.

Response strategies and restrictions

When an individual’s behaviour is or becomes unreasonable, Ad Standards will consider implementing contact response strategies or limiting access to its complaint handling services to protect our staff and to maintain the effectiveness of our service to others.

The types of restrictions that can be placed on communication include:

  • no further calls will be accepted and all future contact must be in writing
  • correspondence will only be replied to if it is raising new issues or concerns
  • correspondence will not be replied to if it contains abusive, obscene or threatening language, or discriminatory comments
  • no further complaints will be accepted for a notified period

The level of restriction will be proportionate, time limited where appropriate, and always targeted at addressing a specific identified issue that we conclude is resulting in unacceptable contact with us. 

We will aim to make reasonable adjustments and will take relevant requests into account as appropriate where applying communication restrictions.


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