You can find the Complaint Rules as a PDF document for download here.
The following complaint rules regulate the procedure for submitting a complaint to the German Council for Public Relations. It contains the conditions for receipt, the course of the procedure and the possible measures.
- Entry requirement for the complaint procedure to the DRPR
1.1 Affected parties
The DRPR is responsible for the public relations and communications of the entire professional field, i.e. all organisations (e.g. companies, associations, societies, NGOs) and persons, insofar as they are active in Germany or from Germany in other countries.
1.2 Subject matter
The subject matter of a DRPR proceeding is misconduct in active, socially relevant communication as well as by omission of such required communication. Furthermore, the use of all communication instruments in this respect will be examined. The consequences caused or intended are also assessed. The benchmarks for the audit are the German Communication Code and the DRPR Guidelines as well as existing European and global codes, such as the Code d’Athènes, the Code de Lisbonne as well as the Code of the Global Alliance, and the “Seven Commitments” of the DPRG.
1.3 Press and advertising
Complaints relating primarily to the actions and conduct of press organs or advertisers may be referred to the German Press Council or the German Advertising Council.
1.4 Civil and criminal proceedings
If the complainant is obviously entitled to a civil claim, a criminal claim or the reporting of a criminal offence, the complainant may be referred to these.
1.5 Exclusion period
The Council may decline to refer to it any matter which has been in the public domain for more than one year prior to the receipt of the complaint.
2. Raising a complaint
A complaint is a notification of a fact that contains evidence of conduct or omissions that may constitute a violation of the German Communications Code or the other relevant regulations.
2.2 Right to complain
Any person or organisation is entitled to submit complaints to the DRPR.
The DRPR may also initiate complaint procedures on its own initiative.
3. Content and form of the complaint
The complaint shall contain the person concerned, the subject matter, the reprimand as well as the complainant. Anonymous complaints are not suitable for initiating proceedings, with the exception of the regulations in item 6.3.
The complaint shall be made exclusively by letter, fax or e-mail. The complaint shall be addressed to the DRPR’s head office.
3.3 Acknowledgement of receipt
The DRPR’s head office shall confirm receipt of the complaint to the complainant.
4. Preliminary proceedings
The chairperson of the DRPR shall forward the complaint by e-mail to the members of the DRPR through the DRPR head office, together with an assignment to the competent complaints committee.
The chairperson of the DRPR shall examine the responsibility of the DRPR and decide on the admissibility of the complaint, taking into account any comments by the members of the DRPR, within one month of receipt of the complaint. If the complaint is inadmissible, the complainant shall be informed thereof without delay.
Members of the DRPR who consider themselves to be biased in the matter or who must be considered to be biased shall not participate in the handling of the complaint. This shall be documented in the decision pursuant to item 7.2.
5. Intermediate proceedings
An admissible complaint shall be served by the chairperson of the complaints committee on the person concerned, in the case of legal entities regularly on the acting party and the legal representative, while making the complainant anonymous. The German Communications Code and, if applicable, other relevant guidelines and the DRPR’s Complaints Rules shall be enclosed with the notification. Furthermore, a note by the chairperson of the complaints committee on the admissibility of the complaint and the provisions of points 5.2, 5.3 of the complaints regulations shall be enclosed and the reasonable period of time pursuant to 5.2 shall be set.
Upon notification of the complaint, the party concerned is requested to comment on the complaint – exclusively by letter, fax or e-mail – within a period of 14 days, but no longer than two months. The statement shall be accompanied by appropriate evidence to enable the DRPR members to assess the matter. Upon request by the chairperson of the complaints committee, the deadline may be extended by up to two months with sufficient justification, if there is no reason to fear an unreasonable delay of the proceedings.
The party concerned may declare within the set period of time that it will refrain from the facts complained of in the future, that it will remedy any damage that may have occurred and that it will inform the public or addressees concerned of this itself. In this case, the proceedings may be discontinued by the DRPR if the party concerned provides credible evidence of the notification within one month of its declaration; in all other cases, the proceedings shall continue. The chairperson of the complaints committee shall inform the complainant of the discontinuation of the proceedings due to the voluntary commitment of the person concerned.
6. Complaints procedure
In all other cases, the chairperson of the DRPR shall inform the members of the DRPR after the end of the intermediate procedure and arrange for the matter to be referred to the respective complaints committee.
The chairperson of the complaints committee as well as their members shall research the facts of the case within a reasonable period of time within the bounds of factual and legal possibilities. The members of the Appeals Committees may commission a member as rapporteur with the further clarification. Taking into account the legitimate interests of the person concerned, the complaints committee may avail itself of the expertise of third parties.
6.3 Counsel of Trust
The DRPR may appoint a lawyer as a lawyer of confidence. This lawyer may act as an intermediary in the research pursuant to section 6.2 for information provided to him by third parties, while anonymising the source. Furthermore, in exception to point 3.1, the lawyer of confidence may receive complaints from third parties and forward them anonymously to the head office according to point 3.2. In both cases, the ombudsperson must ascertain the identity of the third party and check whether an exceptional case of anonymity exists for good cause. Necessary communication with the anonymous third party shall be conducted via the ombudsman.
The person concerned shall be given a hearing at any stage of the appeal procedure if he or she so requests.
6.5 Procedural file
A procedural file on the complaints procedure shall be kept in an appropriate form. This file shall be made available to the members of the DRPR.
The chairperson of the complaints committee or the delegated member shall inform the members of the complaints committee in a timely manner of the outcome of the investigation, compile the subsequent votes of the members of the complaints committee and propose a decision. This decision shall be forwarded to the chairperson of the DRPR.
7. Resolution of the DRPR
The chairperson of the DRPR shall forward the proposed decision to the members of the DRPR.
The DRPR shall decide on the action to be taken on the complaint without delay at its next meeting or by circulation.
The decision shall be served on the party concerned and the complainant without delay by the chairperson of the DRPR. The decision shall be accompanied by a statement of reasons.
The decision of the DRPR shall be published by the head office in an appropriate form immediately after service on the party concerned. In justified cases, the chairperson of the DRPR may postpone publication until after expiry of the objection period.
7.5 Suspension of publication/anonymisation
Publications may be permanently anonymised in and/or removed from the Council’s current publication upon a justified request by the person concerned, which may be made no earlier than one year after the publication of the decision. The prerequisite is that the decision is based on a minor infringement and that the suspension of publication does not run counter to the purpose of the complaints procedure. The DRPR shall decide on the request at its next meeting or by circular procedure at its reasonable discretion. Decisions may also be made anonymous by the DRPR in the case of publications outside the complaints procedure without a request by the party concerned.
The DRPR may decide on the following measures, in the legal sense of an expression of opinion:
The discontinuation of the proceedings due to subsequent inadmissibility or established obvious unfoundedness;
Dismissal of the complaint on the grounds of unfoundedness;
In the case of minor, in particular negligent, violations, a warning, i.e. an admonition by the DRPR to the person concerned to behave in accordance with the rules in the future;
In the case of grossly negligent to intentional violations, a reprimand, i.e. the determination of a significant violation of the regulations according to point 1.2;
Outside of a grievance procedure, if violations of the regulations under point 1.2 are publicly advocated or defended.
9. Objection procedure
The DRPR may decide on the following measures in the legal sense of an expression of opinion:
The party concerned may lodge an objection against the DRPR’s decision with the head office within one month of notification by letter, fax or e-mail only. 9.2 Reasons The objection must be substantiated within a further month and accompanied by appropriate evidence. 9.2 Reasons
The objection shall be substantiated within one further month and shall be accompanied by appropriate evidence. In principle, new arguments which could already have been submitted during the proceedings may only be taken into account if the late submission is sufficiently excused.
The competent complaints committee shall deal with the matter again, taking into account the grounds for appeal, and shall forward a recommendation for decision to the DRPR members in a timely manner.
The DRPR shall vote at the next meeting or by circular resolution on the basis of the complaints committee’s recommendation to confirm the decision or to adopt another measure. The decision may be postponed once to the next Council meeting or a circulated decision. No further appeal shall be allowed against the decision on the appeal.
Status: April 2015