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Eligibility of a complaint

When a complaint is submitted to an NCP, the NCP must conduct an initial assessment to determine if the case merits further examination. In determining whether the case is eligible for further consideration, NCPs generally look at the identity and interest of the complainant, the relevance of the case to the OECD Guidelines and that particular NCP, the existence of parallel procedures, and whether considering the case would contribute to the purpose and effectiveness of the Guidelines.

The Who, what, when, where, why of filing a complaint

  • Who can file a complaint?

Any ‘interested party’ can file a complaint against a company for alleged breaches of the Guidelines. An ‘interested party’ can be a community (member), a group of workers or individuals impacted by the enterprise’s activities, a trade union, or an NGO. The complainant does do not necessarily have to represent an affected individual, community or local organisation. However, you should be able to show your interest in the matter through, for example, your organisation’s mission or issues you work on and have expertise in. Additionally, individuals and organisations with a broad interest in the company’s activities – such as, for example, investors, consumers and consumer organisations – can also file a complaint.

  • Against whom can you file a complaint?

You can file a complaint against a multinational company or companies from or operating in an OECD or adhering country. This means, for example, that you can file a complaint against a Brazilian company operating in Somalia, because Brazil adheres to the Guidelines. But you cannot file a complaint against a Chinese company operating in Ghana because neither China nor Ghana adheres to the Guidelines.

  • About what can you file a complaint?

You can file a complaint about an alleged breach – by a multinational enterprise – of one or more of the principles laid out in any of the OECD Guidelines’ 11 substantive chapters. Complaints can be filed about past violations that have not been sufficiently addressed by the company, for violations currently occurring or for violations that may occur if a company goes ahead with planned activities.

  •  Where to file a complaint?

In principle, a complaint should be filed at the NCP of the country where the alleged problems caused by the company are occurring (i.e. the host country). If the host country does not have an NCP (because it does not adhere to the Guidelines), the complaint should be submitted to the NCP in the country where the company has its headquarters (i.e. the home country). In some instances, the host and home countries both have NCPs. Consideration of where to submit the complaint then depends on a number of factors, such as the goal of the complaint and whether your preferred outcome is locally-focused or aims to affect change at the headquarters level. In circumstances where you think a company’s headquarters is partially responsible for breaches made by a subsidiary company, OECD Watch advises filing the complaint at both home and host country NCPs. In such cases, NCPs are expected to collaborate in handling the case.

  • When to file a complaint?

As mentioned, complaints can be filed before, during or after alleged violations of the Guidelines have occurred or are occurring. If a Guidelines complaint is part of a larger campaign against a company, there may also be strategic and tactical considerations to take into account when deciding on the right moment to file the complaint.

  • Why file a complaint?

OECD Guidelines complaints can (but are certainly not guaranteed to) bring about changes in corporate behaviour, raise public awareness and provide a mechanism for remedying grievances.

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