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Instructions and strategic considerations

There is no required format or style for writing Guidelines complaints. However, some NCPs do provide guidance as to what kind of information they expect to be included in a complaint, so be sure to check the website of the NCP to which you expect submit your complaint to see if this is the case.

Identify chapters and provisions of the Guidelines

You need to cite the specific chapters and paragraphs the company is allegedly violating in your complaint and explain in detail how the company is violating specific provisions. It is not sufficient to state an enterprise is violating the Guidelines without explaining who, how, what, why, when and where.

  • Who (or what) is being harmed by the enterprise’s violations?
  • How have the enterprise’s activities harmed the complainants, community members, environment etc.?
  • What activities or behaviour is the enterprise engaging in that constitutes a violation of the Guidelines?
  • Why are the activities a violation of the Guidelines?
  • When did the alleged violation(s) occur?
  • Where did the alleged violation(s) occur?
Subsequently identifying the specific chapters and provisions a company has allegedly breached can be difficult. OECD Watch has therefore developed an online case check to help complainants identify which specific OECD Guidelines a company may have breached. OECD Watch nevertheless strongly advises those interested in filing a complaint to read the full official text and commentary of the OECD Guidelines.

Format of the complaint

To guide complainants to write a clear, concise and persuasive complaint OECD Watch has furthermore developed a template complaint letter. You do not need to follow this format exactly, but it is OECD Watch’s experience that a well-written complaint includes all the information described below.

  1. Your identity, including a contact person, name or organisation, address, telephone number, fax number and email.
  2. The name and address of the NCP
  3. Short introduction to the case, including the company, the problem and the location of violation
  4. Explanation of your interest in the case and your purpose for writing
  5. Company information, including the company's contact details and company structure
  6. Information on about the broader background, context or location of violations
  7. List of chapter(s) and paragraph(s) in the Guidelines the complaint is breaching
  8. Detailed information on the alleged breaches and developments to date
  9. Other relevant (international) standards the NCP should take into account when considering the complaint
  10. Description of previous attempts at resolution of the case directly with the company or other relevant actors and/or institutions
  11. Outline of complaint goals, demands and requests from the company and/or NCP. Before filing a complaint, you should ensure that you have a clear view of what outcome you hope to achieve, as well as what results are realistically possible and likely.
  12. Confidentiality request, such as the names of individuals, sources of evidence or any documentation that cannot be shared with the company
  13. Statement of "good faith" to engage in the procedure. If you are pursuing multiple strategies, explain why you consider these activities appropriate and why they will not conflict with or undermine the complaint process.
  14. Attachments and/or appendices with more detailed information relevant to the complaint

Language

Complaints should generally be written in English or the national language of the NCP receiving the case. If the complaint will be filed with several governments, consider writing it in a language that is understood all NCPs. However, if it is too burdensome to write the complaint in another language (or to provide evidence in another language), submit the complaint and evidence in your own language. Keep in mind, however, not translating the complaint could result in additional delays and the NCP may not be willing to translate (all) documents.

Time and resources

The Guidelines dispute resolution process is often a time and resource-intensive exercise. The Procedural Guidance recommends that NCPs should seek to complete complaints within one year, and some cases have been successfully concluded in less than six months. However, there are many more examples of cases that have taken several years to conclude.

The process may require you to spend significant resources, including  on costs for personnel, translation, research and investigation, travel and consultant advice and support. If you are filing a joint complaint (with other impacted stakeholders or civil society organisations), remember it takes time and effort to coordinate with partner organisations locally and internationally. You may need to travel to participate in meetings with the NCP or company. Many complainants have also had to invest time to follow up and ensure the company is abiding by the agreement and/or recommendations resulting from the specific instance process.

Possibility of using simultaneous strategies

An OECD Guidelines complaint can be one of several strategies pursued simultaneously. An OECD Guidelines complaint can be used instead of, or in addition to, other advocacy strategies such as lawsuits, public and media campaigns and shareholder actions. Other institutional non-judicial grievance mechanisms or dispute resolution procedures may also be appropriate.

Keep in mind that the Guidelines’ specific instance procedure is largely a mediation/conciliation-oriented process designed to get parties together to resolve disputes amicably. NCPs expect parties to engage with a view to finding a mutually-acceptable resolution to the issues. The nature and expectations of this process have to be weighed against other actions and instruments available to address the problem. A complaint should support, and not undermine, existing efforts if simultaneous strategies are pursued.

Should you consider using simultaneous strategies next to filing an OECD Guidelines complaint, take note of NCPs' positions on the existance of parallel proceedings.

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