Council Tax Advisors implements a compliance program aimed at; working within the OFT guidelines, fraud, and abuse prevention while at the same time advancing the mission of providing quality customer care. Our compliance efforts are aimed at prevention, detection, and resolution of variances.
The 8 elements of Council Tax Advisors Compliance Policy are:
1. Commitment to Compliance
5. Designation of a Compliance Officer and Committee
6. Conducting Effective Training and Education Programs
7. Disciplinary Guidelines
8. Auditing and Monitoring
1. COMMITMENT TO COMPLIANCE
A. Standards of Conduct
- Council Tax Advisors promotes adherence to the Compliance Program as a major element in the performance evaluation of all staff members to operate within the guidelines issued by the Office of Fair Trading (incorporating FCA) who administer the Consumer Credit Act 1974 (the Act).
- Council Tax Advisors has appointed a single person responsible for all compliance, the Compliance Officer and will be supported by a Compliance Committee.
- Council Tax Advisorss employees are bound to comply, in all official acts and duties, with all applicable laws, rules, regulations and standards of conduct.
- Current and future standards of conduct are incorporated by reference in this Compliance Policy.
- All candidates for employment shall undergo a reasonable and prudent background investigation, including a reference check. Due care will be used in the recruitment and hiring process to prevent the appointment to positions with substantial discretionary authority, persons whose record (professional licensure, credentials, prior employment, any criminal record) gives reasonable cause to believe the individual has a propensity to fail to adhere to applicable standards of conduct.
- All new employees will receive orientation and training in compliance policies and procedures. Participation in required training is a condition of employment. Failure to participate in required training may result in disciplinary actions, up to and including, termination of employment.
- Every employee is asked to sign a statement certifying they have received, read, and understood the contents of our compliance policy.
- Every employee will receive periodic training updates in compliance protocols as they relate to the employee’s individual duties.
- Non-compliance with the policy or violations will result in sanctioning of the involved employee(s) up to, and including, termination of employment.
B. Data Protection
- Council Tax Advisors will take reasonable measures to ensure that customers’ personal information will be dealt with under the strictest of guidelines within Data Protection Act 1998
- A ‘clean desk’ policy will be enforced at the end of each working day with customer files being files and locked away in a safe and retrievable place.
- Due diligence will be exercised at all times within IT equipment ensuring the safety of customer data.
- General office security and layout will be designed around customers’ personal data protection
C. Customer Charter
- Council Tax Advisors aims to offer its customers a ‘charitable’ service at all times making sure its customers receive best advice and service at all times.
- Council Tax Advisors does not charge fees and will only introduce Debt Management Plans (DMP) to product providers who offer a totally free service to its DMP customers.
- If a charge or fee will be made, such as for an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA), then Council Tax Advisors promise the customer that the best selection of product provider is gained based on the knowledge of fees and performance.
- Council Tax Advisors will constantly monitor the performance of product providers with a view to maintaining a relationship to refer its customers too.
- All our customers will be dealt with the upmost care aiming at total customer satisfaction.
- Council Tax Advisors will promote only honest, straightforward, fully informative, and non-deceptive marketing material.
- All material must be scrutinised by its Compliance Officer and Committee before released for publicity.
- All marketing material will fall within the guidelines issued by the Office of Fair Trading (incorporating FCA) and the Advertising Standards Agency.
- Marketing material shall be know as any device that is intended for a consumer to read and that promoted Council Tax Advisors.
- Council Tax Advisors will not participate in nor condone the provision of inducements or receipt of commission or ‘kickbacks’ to gain business or influence referrals.
- Council Tax Advisors will consider the customers interests in offering referral to product providers.
- The level of business being referred to product providers will be monitored and published on regular intervals aiming to eliminate any bias to a product provider and away from its customer.
- Any employee involved in promoting or accepting kickbacks or offering inducements may be terminated immediately.
- Council Tax Advisors will constantly strive for financial transparency and make its accounts available to be viewed at any time upon request.
- Council Tax Advisors will ensure that all records required by its service are created and maintained.
- All records will be maintained for a period of no less than seven years.
- Documentation of compliance efforts will include staff meeting minutes, memoranda concerning compliance protocols, problems identified and corrective actions taken, the results of any investigations, and customer complaints.
- All employees will comply to strict customer confidentiality protocol and will be trained and monitored at all times.
- The systems of Council Tax Advisors will reflect and uphold customer confidentiality and will continued to be enhanced with this in view.
5. DESIGNATION OF A COMPLIANCE OFFICER AND A COMPLIANCE COMMITTEE
- Council Tax Advisors designates a Compliance officer and a Compliance committee to serve as the coordinator of all compliance activities.
The responsibilities of the compliance officer are:
- Overseeing and monitoring the implementation of the compliance program.
- Reporting monthly to the Board of Directors on the progress of implementation and assisting Council Tax Advisors in establishing methods to improve efficiency and quality of services.
- Developing and distributing all written compliance policies and procedures to all affected employees.
- Periodically revising the program in light of changes in the needs of Council Tax Advisors and in the law; and changes in policies and procedures of government policy.
- Developing, coordinating, and participating in a multifaceted educational and training program that focuses on the elements of the compliance program and seeks to ensure that all employees are knowledgeable of, and comply with, compliant protocol issued by Council Tax Advisors.
- Ensuring that all employees are informed of compliance program standards with respect to systems, customer services, complaint handling, data protection, advice and marketing, etc.
- Assisting in coordinating internal compliance review and monitoring activities.
- Independently investigating and acting on matters related to compliance, including the flexibility to design of systems, oversight complaints and coordinate internal investigations.
- Developing policies and programs that encourage managers and employees to report suspected fraud and other improprieties without fear of retaliation.
- The compliance officer has the authority to review all documents and other information relative to compliance activities, including, but not limited to, Council Tax Advisorss accounts and records concerning marketing efforts and arrangements with customers.
Council Tax Advisors will designate a compliance committee to advise the compliance officer and assist in the implementation of the compliance program as needed.
The functions of the compliance committee are:
- Analyzing Council Tax Advisorss regulatory environment, the legal requirements with which it must comply, and specific risk areas.
- Assessing existing policies and procedures that address risk areas for possible incorporation into the compliance policy.
- Working within standards of conduct and policies and procedures to promote compliance.
- Recommending and monitoring the development of internal systems and controls to implement standards, policies, and procedures as part of the daily operations.
- Assist the Compliance Officer to maintain the required level of standard of complaint education to all other employees.
- Developing a system to solicit, evaluate, and respond to complaints and problems.
6. CONDUCTING EFFECTIVE TRAINING AND EDUCATION
- Council Tax Advisors requires all employees to attend specific training upon hire and on regular intervals when demanded basis thereafter.
- This will include training in the Office of Fair Trading (incorporating FCA) statutes.
- The training will emphasize Council Tax Advisors commitment to compliance with these legal requirements and policies.
- The training programs will include sessions highlighting Council Tax Advisors compliance program, complaint handling, the collection of customer information, offering advice, and marketing practices that reflect current legal and Office of Fair Trading (incorporating FCA) standards.
- The compliance officer and or a committee member will document the attendees, the subjects covered, and any materials distributed at the training sessions.
7. DISCIPLINARY GUIDELINES
- All members of Council Tax Advisors will be held accountable for failing to comply with applicable standards, laws, and procedures. Supervisors and/or managers will be held accountable for the foreseeable compliance failures of their team members.
- The supervisor or manager will be responsible for taking appropriate disciplinary actions in the event a team member fails to comply with applicable data protection regulations or compliance policies. The disciplinary process for violations of compliance programs will be administered according to protocols as detailed in the staff manual (generally oral warning, written warning, suspension without leave, leading to termination) depending upon the seriousness of the violation. The Compliance Officer and or Committee, as well as legal counsel, may be consulted in determining the seriousness of the violation. However, the Compliance Officer and or Committee should never be involved in imposing discipline.
- If the deviation occurred due to legitimate, explainable reasons, the compliance officer and supervisor/manager may want to limit disciplinary action or take no action. If the deviation occurred because of improper procedures, misunderstanding of rules, including systemic problems, Council Tax Advisors should take immediate actions to correct the problem.
- When disciplinary action is warranted, it should be prompt and imposed according to written standards of disciplinary action.
- Within 30 working days after receipt of an investigative report, the Chief Executive Officer or a senior member of the Board of Directors of Council Tax Advisors shall determine the action to be taken upon the matter. The action may include, without limitation, one or more of the following:
- Dismissal of the matter.
- Verbal counselling.
- Issuing a warning letter, or a letter of reprimand.
- Entering into and monitoring a corrective action plan. The corrective action plan may include
requirements for individual or group remedial education and training, consultation,
- Suspension or termination of employment.
- Modification of assigned duties.
8. AUDITING AND MONITORING
- The Compliance Officer and or Committee will conduct ongoing evaluations of compliance processes involving thorough monitoring and regular reporting to the Officers and Board of Reference to Council Tax Advisors.
- The Compliance Officer and or Committee will develop audit tools designed to address compliance inline with the Office of Fair Trading (incorporating FCA) guidance laws and Data Protection legislation, marketing, reporting, and record-keeping.
- Internal audits will be conducted on a monthly basis.
- The audits will inquire into compliance with specific rules and policies that have been the focus of Debt Management intermediaries.
- Audits should also reflect areas of concern that are specific to Debt Management
- The Compliance Officer and or Committee shall conduct exit interviews of personnel in order to solicit information concerning potential problems and questionable practices.
- The Compliance Officer and or Committee should be aware of patterns and trends in deviations identified by the audit that may indicate a systemic problem.
Council Tax Advisors’ reserve the right to modify this policy from time to time as and when it finds the need to improve its policy or when the law changes.