Consumer Complaint Information
Who Can/Should File a Complaint?
A complaint should be filed by anyone who believes that a licensee (acupuncturist) of the Acupuncture Board has, or is, engaged in illegal or unethical activities that are related to their professional responsibilities. Anyone may file a complaint, and the Board will review each complaint regardless of the source.
The most effective complaints are those that contain firsthand, verifiable information. While anonymous complaints will be reviewed, they may be impossible to pursue unless they contain documented evidence of the allegations made.
Everyone has the right to file a complaint free of harassment. If you are harassed by the person about whom you have complained, you should notify the Board and/or local law enforcement immediately.
How Do I File a Complaint?
All complaints MUST be in writing or on a consumer complaint form, with specific information needed to initiate a review; such as the names, addresses and phone numbers of both the complainant and the licensee.
Please explain, in your own words, the nature and facts concerning your complaint. Include as much information as possible, including any documentary evidence available. It is NOT necessary to refer to specific sections of the law that have been violated.
How Are Complaints Processed?
The Board receives complaints concerning a wide variety of issues and situations. Complaints are reviewed immediately upon receipt. Those complaints containing allegations that would warrant disciplinary action (e.g., sexual abuse, negligence, incompetence, etc.), and can be substantiated, are immediately referred to an investigator. An investigator is a trained peace officer employed by the Department of Consumer Affairs, Division of Investigation. The complainant is notified that the matter is being formally investigated (approximately two-four weeks after complaint is received).
Complaints which may be unlikely causes for any disciplinary action, and which are substantiated, are dealt with through direct mediation and/or referral. Complaints that are clearly nonjurisdictional (i.e., fee disputes, insurance issues) are referred to other agencies or organizations which may be more able to assist the complainant.
If it has been determined that a complaint must be formally investigated, the complainant is advised and can expect to be interviewed by the investigator assigned to the case. This interview will provide the complainant an opportunity to fully discuss the details of the complaint, answer the investigator's questions, and ask any questions regarding the overall process. The investigator may also interview the subject (licensee) of the complaint who will be advised of the nature of the complaint. To ensure that the success of the investigation is not jeopardized in any way, the details of the investigation remain confidential and are not public record.
Once the investigation is completed and the allegations are confirmed, the case may be submitted to the Office of the Attorney General for formal administrative disciplinary action. In signing the Accusation, the Board's executive officer becomes the complainant. Once the Accusation is filed, it becomes a public document. The licensee may request a hearing to contest the charges. At the hearing, the Board must demonstrate "by clear and convincing evidence to a reasonable certainty" that the allegations are true. For that reason, it may be necessary for the person who made the original complaint to testify.
In many cases, defense counsel and the Deputy Attorney General representing the Board may engage in discussions of proposals for stipulated settlements prior to the hearing. Stipulated settlements generally include admission to one or more of the violations alleged and a proposal for appropriate discipline. The Board encourages negotiated settlements because they eliminate the need for costly administrative hearings. To this end, the Board has adopted Disciplinary Guidelines which are designed to set forth the Board's penalty standards. (A copy may be obtained upon written request.)
When a case does go to hearing, the hearing is presided over by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). After the hearing is completed, the ALJ will issue a "Proposed Decision" stating the findings (facts that were proven in the hearing) and offer a recommendation for resolution (i.e., dismissal, revocation, probation). The ALJ utilizes the Board's Disciplinary Guidelines in formulating a recommendation. The proposed decision is distributed to the Board members for a vote. If the Board votes to non-adopt the proposed decision, the hearing transcript is then circulated among Board members, along with written arguments from the defense counsel and the Board's counsel, and the Board issues its own Final Decision. Final Decisions are a matter of public record and are available upon written request.
In conclusion, it should be noted that the time frame involved in the disciplinary process, from the time a complaint is originally received by the Board until a final decision is rendered, generally takes a minimum of at least two years.
Should Unlicensed Practice be Reported to the Board?
If you have evidence which indicates that an unlicensed person is participating in activities (acupuncture) for which a license is required, you should definitely report such activity to the Board. However, you should be aware that as a licensing agency the Board only has jurisdiction to take disciplinary action against its licensees. In certain circumstances, however, the Board will investigate allegations of unlicensed practice, and, if sufficient evidence is found, will forward this information to the local District Attorney's Office for criminal prosecution.
Applicants for licensure, interns and trainees may also be engaged in unlicensed practice. In those cases, the Board will investigate and pursue appropriate administrative action.
If you have further questions regarding the complaint process, please write or call the Acupuncture Board office.