Ombudsman Service

Conflict of Interest leading to Non-delivery of Services

  • Date Lodged: 29th July 2019
  • Reason: Conflict of Interest leading to Non-delivery of services.
    Following on from a review of the information received, it was determined that:

    • the question to be answered is: ‘was the Complainant allocated a coach/mentor from the Respondent’s company that met with the consumers’ requirements?’
    • this complaint centred on Conflicts of Interest and Clarity.
  • Outcome: UPHELD
  • Outcome Issued: 29th October 2019
  • Actions, Recommendations, Sanctions:
    • Complainant: Recommendations
    • Respondent #1: Recommendations
    • Respondent #2: Sanctions
  • Dates that Actions, Recommendations, and/or Sanctions Lifted:
    The Ombudsman Service has not received an application for these recommendations/sanctions to be lifted. 
    Should an application be received to lift these recommendations/sanctions, this Case Study will be updated.
Ombudsman Service 4

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Although the global coaching and mentoring industry is legally unregulated, meaning that anyone can call themselves a coach or a mentor (or both), regardless of their professional background, qualifications[i], and competencies[i].

To address this issue, the industry has found a solution in self-regulation; and the International Regulator of Coaching and Mentoring CIC (IRCM CIC) is a UK government-approved Regulator for the protection of the consumers.  The IRCM CIC works closely with a number of Professional Bodies who have set independent professional and ethical standards for coaches, mentors, and private commercial training providers.

Although self-regulation can be seen as a big step forward in becoming more professional as an industry, it still doesn’t solve all the industry problems: as seen through the Requests for Facilitation and Formal Complaints lodged with the Ombudsman Service.  Not every person or business within the coaching and mentoring industry agrees to comply with the minimal Unified International Codes of Conduct.

This Formal Complaint highlights the challenges of Coaching and Mentoring Organisations that have been set up to supply coaches and/or mentors to consumers, without fully understanding or agreeing to comply with the self-regulation unified international industry codes of conduct – ethics, standards, and competencies.

As the Ombudsman Service received no appeals from Complainant or either Respondent; the Head of Ombudsman Service concluded that the report, sanctions, and recommendations have been accepted.  Although only provided to the Ombudsman Service as a ‘note’, when Respondent #2 emailed the Complainant directly explaining that if the Complainant took this further, they would be charged for Respondent #2’s time and effort: the Ombudsman Service have noted this unprofessional behaviour.

Neither Respondent #1, nor Respondent #2 have met the Recommendation or Sanction requirements, and as such these will be retained on the Ombudsman Service Register until they do.  Should further grievances, disputes, and/or complaints be registered with the Ombudsman Service against Respondent #1 or Respondent #2; this complaint will be incorporated into the review.

The Complainant initially requested a refund of their balance, and then in an email dated 5th August 2019 requested a full refund of £750 within 14 days from the date of their email.

With the information received by the Ombudsman Service, the overall outcome of this review is that the requested refund, partially or in full, is not awarded.

The Respondents have handled the Complainant’s request within their Refunds Policy.

Respondent #2 in his email of 20th July 2019 offers the Complainant ‘You are more than welcome to continue with the remaining 8 sessions with me or another mentor within the Respondent’s company.’

This complaint hinges on conflict of interest and clarity and the findings of the Ombudsman Service is that the clarity was not provided by either the Respondents or the Complainant.

The Complainant was recommended a Coach/Mentor from the Respondent’s company by her brother-in-law.  Although requesting a Coach who was not coaching or mentoring a member of her family and therefore did not have a conflict of interest, both Coaches that were provided had or were still working with members of the Complainant’s extended family.

The reason for not awarding the requested outcome is that, although inappropriate, Respondent #2 had offered the Complainant the opportunity to continue working with himself.  In the same email, the Complainant was offered another mentor from the Respondent’s company.

In addition, the information received and reviewed by the Ombudsman Service panel raised a number of additional concerns:

  1. The reluctance of the Respondents to provide the detail requested.
  2. Statements made without substance.
  3. Clarity.
  4. Confidentiality.
  5. Professionalism.
  6. Contractual terms and conditions.
  7. Documented complaints and refunds process.

The Complainant has lost her ‘trust’ in the Respondent’s company based on the actions of one of their Members/Directors – Respondent #2.

The Complainant had been offered the opportunity of coaching or mentoring with another member of the Respondent’s company.  As Respondent #1 had confirmed that the Complainant was not entitled to a refund based on the Respondent companies refund policy, the Ombudsman Service would encourage the Complainant to explore and interview other Coaches/Mentors of the Respondent’s company. Before doing so, it would be beneficial to both parties if the Complainant clearly documents her wider family members, such that another coach or mentor does not agree to work with her, having worked with in the past, currently working with, or accepts to work in the future with a member of her documented wider family.

The Ombudsman Service recommends that, in light of the Respondent’s refund policy, the Complainant speaks to the most senior Members/Director of the Respondent’s company (but not Respondent #1 or Respondent #2) and work with them to find another coach or mentor that meets her requirements.

Although it is recognised by the Ombudsman Service that Respondent #1 referred the Complainant to another coach or mentor, the Ombudsman Service have noted Respondent #1’s reluctance to respond to their requests for information.

Respondent #1’s statement of the Complainants ‘dishonesty’ in their emails, without providing further details or supporting evidence, has not been taken into consideration in the Ombudsman Service deliberations.

The Ombudsman Service recommend that Respondent #1 review the following clauses in light of their conduct in not providing full details requested and their delays in responding to the Ombudsman Service:

  • IRCM Unified Code of Industry Ethics – Ethical Foundation
  • IRCM Unified Code of Industry Ethics – Personal Conduct point 8.
  • IRCM Unified Coaching and Mentoring Industry Core Competencies – point 6.8.

Respondent #2 was described by Respondent #1 as ‘one of the most senior members of the Respondent’s company …’.

The Respondent’s company was incorporated on 23rd February 2012 as a Limited Liability Partnership.

The Ombudsman Service sanctions Respondent #2 review the following clauses on their reluctance to engage in the Ombudsman Service Process, Clarity, Contracts, Confidentiality, and Professionalism:

  • IRCM Unified Code of Industry Ethics – Ethical Foundation
  • IRCM Unified Code of Industry Ethics – Personal Conduct
    point 3, 7 (specifically, sub‐clauses 5, 6, 10, and 11)
  • IRCM Unified Coach of Industry Ethics – Professional Conduct
    points 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 (specifically, sub‐clause 1), 13, and 20.
  • IRCM Unified Coaching and Mentoring Industry Core Competencies
    point 1.4, 1.7, 2 (specifically 2.1.iv and 2.1.vi), 3, and 4.

Respondent #2 is to clearly document their reflections on their actions in dealing with the Complainant’s complaint. More details on Reflection can be found under IRCM Unified Coaching and Mentoring Industry Core Competencies point 7.

The Ombudsman Service has not received an application for this sanction to be lifted.  Should an application be received to lift this sanction, this Case Study will be updated.

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Dated: 29th October 2019
Ombudsman Service
International Regulator of Coaching and Mentoring (CIC)
27 Old Gloucester Street, London, WC1N 3AX, United Kingdom