The Complaints Process
The College of Opticians of Ontario (the “College”) is mandated to investigate every written or recorded complaint made against one of its members. Should there be any concern about the level of care received or any aspect of professional conduct with regard to a registered member of the College, please contact the office and speak with the Manager of Professional Conduct.
Initiating a Complaint
In order for the College to act upon a complaint, it must be received by the Registrar in writing, recorded on audio tape or on video, submitted on disk or on another permanent medium. The complaint should include: the name of the member, the business name, the business address and phone number, the time the incident occurred, a detailed account of what happened, names of any witnesses, and lastly any supporting documentation. There is no time limitation on filing a complaint with the College.
The name(s) of all complainants must be disclosed unless there is strong evidence that the personal safety of the complainant would be at risk by doing so. The aforementioned notwithstanding, the College is not able to act on anonymous complaints as the member who is the subject of the complaint must be in a position to respond fully to the allegation or allegations contained in the complaint.
Once the Complaint is Received
Within 14 days of receiving the complaint, the College will send a letter of acknowledgment to the complainant and a letter to the member against whom the complaint is made, notifying him/her of the complaint. The letter to the member will be accompanied by a copy of the original complaint. The member is required to respond to the notice of complaint within 30 days. The matter will then be referred to a panel of the Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee (the “ICRC”).
Investigating the Complaint
All written submissions and information collected from both the complainant and the member are provided to the panel. At this stage of the complaint process, the panel will review and determine whether additional investigation is required or whether there is sufficient information to reach a decision. In addition to reviewing correspondence from both parties, the panel can do a number of things as part of its investigation, including:
- Getting clarification from both parties
- Inspecting products delivered when applicable
- Interviewing and obtaining statements from witnesses
- Inspecting records
- Obtaining copies of documents
- Authorizing an undercover investigation
- Approaching other patients or members or colleagues or staff of the member who is the subject of the complaint
The purpose of the investigation is to determine how the matter should be resolved. The panel does not conduct hearings, and meets in closed session (i.e., without the complainant or member being present). In determining the outcome of a complaint, the panel should have regard to, among other things, the legal requirements of establishing professional misconduct or incompetence and the strength and quality of the evidence against the member who is the subject of the complaint. All information relating to the investigation and resolution is confidential.
Once the investigation into a complaint has been completed, the panel can make any of the following decisions:
- Dismiss the complaint when appropriate and take no further action.
- Require the member to appear before the panel to be cautioned.
- Refer a specified allegation of professional misconduct or incompetence against the member to the Discipline Committee.
- Refer the matter to a new panel of the ICRC for an incapacity inquiry.
- Order the member to complete a specified continuing education or remediation program.
- Take any other action which is not inconsistent with the Act (such as issue advice, make recommendations, or consider whether an undertaking given by a Member will protect the public interest)
Both the complainant and the member will receive written notification by registered mail regarding the outcome of the complaint. Unlike the results of the disciplinary hearing, which become a matter of public record, all information relating to the investigation and resolution of complaints is held in the strictest of confidence.
Reviewing the Decision
Should either the complainant or the member be dissatisfied with the decision and reasons for the decision given by a panel of the ICRC, they have the right to request a review of the decision, provided the matter has not been referred to the Discipline Committee. In cases when such a referral has not been made, the complainant and the member may request a review of the panel's decision by the Health Professions Appeal and Review Board (HPARB). Requests for review must be made in writing to HPARB within 30 days after receipt of the decision and reasons from the panel.
The College regulates only opticians, student opticians and intern opticians in Ontario. The College has limited legal authority or jurisdiction over optical stores, dispensaries, corporations or their non-optician owners or managers. The College also does not have the legal authority to deal with issues that are solely of a monetary nature, such as prices, warranties or refunds, which are not regulated. Should your concerns entail these issues only, please consider contacting the Better Business Bureau or the Small Claims Court.
Should you have any questions, please contact the Coordinator of Professional Conduct at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 416-368-3616 or (800) 990-9793 (Ontario only) extension 213.