Complaining about an Engineer
Incompetence, negligence or unethical practices by engineers are disciplinary offences which can result in the engineer's registration being removed and/or fines and costs being imposed.
However, a successful complaint will not result in any compensation for the complainant. IPENZ does not have this power.
This web page provides information on how to complain about an engineer.
Any chartered professional engineer who has been disciplined in the last three years will be displayed on the Register.
Making a complaint
In all cases, complaints need to be made in writing or by . The simplest way to do that is to complete a Complaints Form and save it on your computer with a different name, then send it with any material substantiating the complaint to the shortcut on the form ( ). Please note, compulsory fields are highlighted with a red border:
Alternatively, send your complaint to:
The Chief Executive
Complaints can be made for three reasons:
There is no cost to making a complaint to IPENZ. If you think you require legal assistance or want to appear in person at a hearing it will be your responsibility to bear those costs. The Institution does not have the power to award a penalty that includes recovery of the complainant's losses.
IPENZ will act on a complaint provided it has jurisdiction over the engineer concerned. IPENZ has jurisdiction over members of the wider engineering profession who are currently registered holders of a competence quality mark (CPEng, IntPE, ETPract, IntET, CertETn) and Members of IPENZ. You may lodge the same complaint in respect of one or more IPENZ Members and/or people on one of the Engineering Registers.
IPENZ also has jurisdiction over any engineer who is no longer a chartered professional engineer, but who was a chartered professional engineer at the time of the relevant conduct.
IPENZ has no jurisdiction over other engineers.
IPENZ does not have jurisdiction over contractual issues or fees charged for work, and is not a mediator to resolve commercial disputes. If informed of such matters IPENZ will try to guide complainants to other mechanisms to resolve the issues.
Notification of Poor Performance
If you think an individual engineer has performed poorly or the engineering provided was incompetent or negligent, you can complain about them using the system outlined above. If you are unsure, a staff member can assist you. An IPENZ staff member will assess the evidence you provide to determine the appropriate action to be taken. If there is evidence of incompetence, negligence or a breach of the ethical code of conduct, IPENZ may initiate an inquiry on its own motion. The outcome of this inquiry could lead to IPENZ:
The Complaints Process
Following receipt of a complaint, IPENZ will make a preliminary investigation and put the results to the Chair of an Investigating Committee who will act as an adjudicator. Should this investigation indicate that the complaint has substance and is one over which IPENZ has jurisdiction, a formal Investigation Committee will be formed, headed by a different Chair. That Committee will seek your submission, and will provide you with the opportunity to present verbally if you wish. Depending upon the report of the Investigating Committee, a Disciplinary Committee may be convened which will decide any penalty.
Depending upon the outcome of the disciplinary hearing, the Institution has a number of penalties it can apply.
Dissatisfaction with contractual conditions
If you are satisfied with the technical content of the work but unhappy with the timeliness, cost or some other contractual issue, the matter is best dealt with by the courts.
The Small Claims Tribunal will address financial reparations to the value of $15,000 or up to $20,000 by agreement between the parties. Bigger sums need to be brought before the District Court unless reparations sought are in excess of $200,000 in which case the matter will be heard by the High Court.
Contractual matters are not dealt with directly by IPENZ. If you have signed an IPENZ/ACENZ Short Form or Model Conditions Contract, IPENZ can facilitate location of a mediator or arbitrator. Alternatively, the Institute of Arbitrators and Mediators will be able to assist.
Disputes – Advice to purchasers of engineering services
If you are dissatisfied with an engineer's work or behaviour you should start keeping a record of communications with them, and build up a file of material you think is relevant to the dispute. The IPENZ Manager of Investigation and Discipline is available to discuss the process with you.
In the first instance, seek to resolve matters directly with the engineer – this is usually the quickest way to get a result.
Raise the issue verbally with the engineer. If you are not satisfied with the response, put your complaint to the engineer in writing.
In your letter, outline clearly what you are dissatisfied with. Give specific examples of where your expectations were not met, with dates and locations if relevant and any other details that provide specific information. Give the engineer a reasonable length of time to respond; two weeks should be enough. If the engineer is an employee of a company you should also bring the matter to the attention of the company management.
If the engineer's response is unacceptable to you, you should then write to the engineer and state that you remain dissatisfied. If you have decided to take the dispute further you should state that in the letter. Sometimes this may bring a reconsideration of the previous response.
If you have decided to proceed to the next step there are a number of processes that you can use depending upon the circumstances. These processes are listed below and are not mutually exclusive – you can use more than one of them, although it is advisable that they are not all taken at the same time.
Should the dispute be largely commercial or contractual in nature and your claim is for $15,000 or less ($20,000 if both parties agree) then it may be able to be heard by the Disputes Tribunal. There is an initial fee of $50.
Complaints on business matters
Many consulting engineering businesses are members of the Association of Consulting Engineers New Zealand (ACENZ). ACENZ has a complaints process that handles complaints against its member companies. These complaints will generally be over business practices or apparently slow service from the company, rather than the performance of an individual engineer.
The Applicable Register
The regulations under which complaints are processed will depend on either the register the engineer is registered on, or IPENZ rules. The following table summarises this information.