What is a Regulatory Agency?
A regulatory agency is a special group sometimes called a board, agency or commission, that helps make decisions about specific things. It is usually part of the government. They have a job to do in certain areas like jobs, health, and trade. These areas are complicated, so the agency has special rules and policies to follow. The agency makes rules and regulations, watches over things, and makes sure the rules are followed. There are different types of regulatory agencies:
- Government Agencies
- Independent Government
- Self-Governing Agencies
Certain branches of government create rules and regulations in specific areas and are responsible for enforcing government policies. For example, employment standards and income tax are regulated by government agencies and these agencies have procedures in place to ensure policies are followed. If someone has a dispute, there is a formal process for making a complaint.
Independent Government Agencies
These agencies regulate activities according to government legislation, but they operate separately from the government. Independent government agencies may be called commissions, boards or tribunals. The Canada Energy Regulator is an example of an independent regulatory agency established by Parliament.
Some independent government agencies provide an opportunity for public participation or input, before making decisions. Want to have your say about a company’s plan to build a new power line in your community? Then, you may want to attend a public hearing to express your views. Others have a more formal process for filing complaints, disputes or appeals.
Self-governing agencies, such as professional organizations, regulate the conduct of their members. They aren’t part of the government, but they have been trusted with the power to self-regulate. Do you have a complaint about a professional, such as a doctor, lawyer, teacher or accountant? Then your first step is to approach the agency that regulates that profession. Self-governing agencies determine their own requirements for admission and they discipline members who don’t maintain set standards of professional conduct.
Generally, these agencies follow their own guidelines for dealing with complaints and disputes. Once a complaint is received, it will usually be investigated internally, without a formal hearing that is open to the public.
Complaints & Disputes
If you have an issue that is regulated by an administrative agency, you will need to learn about the process involved in filing a complaint or dispute. There are dozens of administrative agencies in British Columbia and they handle a diverse range of issues – from nuclear waste to care facilities. It is important to identify which agency is responsible for handling your issue.
To start your search, select the most suitable category in the Admin Law BC Directory. When you have found the agency most likely to hear your complaint or dispute, you can visit their website to learn more about their process.
Different agencies have different processes for resolving disputes. They usually include early dispute resolution options that try to resolve things before a full tribunal hearing. Some may ask you to simply write a letter of complaint that includes details about the incident. Often, a person can solve the problem through effective negotiation. For example, if you have a workplace disagreement, the Employment Standards Branch will encourage you to talk with your employer first before taking your matter to the complaint stage. Some tribunals use more formal dispute resolution processes, such as mediation, which attempt to resolve an issue without a hearing. Sometimes people pay for mediation outside the tribunal process altogether.
It is important to read the guidelines of the agency that concerns your matter to find out whether it is worthwhile to go through the tribunal process. To learn more about resolving disputes before they become bigger and more complex, see Early Resolution.