Filing a complaint with a National Contact Point (NCP) can be a way to seek remedy for corporate harms and address corporate misconduct.
However, before filing a complaint, communities and their representatives should consider several questions: Is the situation covered by the OECD Guidelines? Is filing a complaint to an NCP the best choice? What are the possible outcomes and limitations of the process? Following these steps can help you decide whether to file an NCP complaint:
- First, identify what specific harms have occurred or may occur in the situation you have in mind: for example, human or labour rights violations, environmental degradation, bribery, or tax avoidance.
Also identify which company(ies) seem involved, considering the company causing the harm itself, and also its business relations such as buyers, retailers, and investors.
- An NCP complaint is possible only if the OECD Guidelines apply to both the harms and at least one linked company.
- Harms: The OECD Guidelines establish expectations for businesses in 11 chapters discussing due diligence, disclosure, human rights, labour rights, the environment, bribery, taxation, and other topics. Are any of the harms you identified related to these chapters?
- Companies: The OECD Guidelines apply to all multinational enterprises headquartered in an OECD member or adherent state, wherever they operate in the world. The OECD Guidelines also apply to all multinational enterprises operating inside an OECD member or adherent state. Does any company you identified meet either criteria for this situation?
The OECD Watch Case Check can help you find out! If the answer to both questions is YES, you probably can file an OECD Guidelines complaint.
- If the OECD Guidelines seem applicable to the situation, then think about your goals regarding the corporate harm identified. Complainants often seek one or more of the following:
- Remedy (including compensation or restitution) for harms caused,
- Acknowledgement or apology by a company,
- Cessation of harmful activity or improved practices moving forward,
- Government attention to the situation,
- Public awareness about an issue.
- While an NCP complaint may help you achieve your goals, also consider some of the limitations and costs of filing:
- Possible good outcomes: A complaint might possibly result in a changed circumstance on the ground, such as compensation for victims or changed policies of a company moving forward. As a result of a complaint, an NCP may issue a strong statement determining the company has breached the OECD Guidelines. A complaint may also help increase government attention or public awareness about an the issue.
- Outcome limitations: Although good outcomes are possible, none of them are guaranteed. Because the OECD Guidelines are not binding on corporations, NCPs cannot require a company to participate in a complaint or take action to remediate or prevent harms. At best, NCPs can only encourage action. Not all NCPs have a strong track record in promoting meaningful resolution of specific instances. A complaint therefore may not help you achieve any of your aims.
- Time costs: Complaints can take months to prepare. After filing, complaint processing should take about one year, and many cases have lasted several years.
- Resource costs: NCPs do not charge filing fees. However, the complaint process can still require a lot of resources, including staff labour costs to research and write the complaint, travel for investigations and/or NCP meetings, translation of documents, and consultant advice and support.
Make sure a complaint is worth the risks and costs within your larger strategy to address the adverse corporate impacts.
- An NCP complaint may help you achieve your goals – but there is no guarantee. Consider whether another action might be more effective for you, such as:
- Filing a court case,
- Filing an administrative complaint to a government office,
- Filing a complaint to a non-state-based mechanism, such as at a development finance institution, human rights commission, or industry grievance mechanism,
- Raising awareness through other means,
- Seeking a shareholder action,
- Pursuing direct dialogue with a company (if safe!).
Pursuing strategies simultaneously is possible and may or may not be helpful. If you plan to file an NCP complaint while pursuing other strategies – or if another complaint has already been filed somewhere else on the same issue – please read the page on parallel proceedings in Other filing considerations.