Questions and answers on the ombudsman's office, the complaint procedure under the Supply Chain Due Diligence Act and the internet-based whistleblower system at The Quality Group GmbH and its subsidiaries ("TQGG")
What is an ombudsman's office / complaints office ("whistleblower system")?
In the course of combating violations of legal regulations and/or internal compliance rules as well as violations of human rights and environmental due diligence obligations, TQGG has appointed an external lawyer as ombudsman lawyer and contact person for our whistleblower system. The ombudsman's lawyer is available to all whistleblowers who wish to provide confidential information about irregularities at TQGG.
Who can contact the whistleblower system?
Our whistleblower system, which is operated by our ombudsman lawyer, is generally available to anyone who can provide information about illegal conduct. These can be employees, customers or other third parties. All reports for which you suspect a violation and which are in the specified subject area will be accepted.
On which topics can information be submitted?
The whistleblower system is available to provide information regarding violations of laws and regulations as well as human rights and environmental risks and breaches of due diligence, insofar as these affect our company, our business unit or our suppliers along the entire supply chain. The topics of the report contents include in particular the following:
Corruption, money laundering, bribery, terrorist financing, violations of export controls
Violations of the Code of Conduct and other internal policies of TQGG (e.g. purchasing guidelines)
Discrimination, bullying, fundamental rights
Health, Operational Safety, Occupational Health and Safety
Personnel issues, including disregard of work instructions
Data protection and information security breaches
EU issues within the meaning of the EU Whistleblower Directive, 2019/1937
Violations of human rights and environmental due diligence obligations. The whistleblower system is not intended for complaints related to the operational business. Information that is reported via the whistleblower system and that concerns issues outside the defined subject area will be forwarded to the appropriate contact persons, subject to the consent of the whistleblower, or the appropriate contact persons will be named.
How can information be submitted?
Our employees can contact supervisors, the HR department, the general counsel or other departments in the company at any time with information.
Whistleblower System / Ombudsman Advocate:
In addition, our employees, business partners and other third parties have access to our whistleblower system, which can be used to submit reports to our ombudsman. You can submit your comments by phone, post, e-mail or in a personal appointment.
Dr. Kathrin J. Niewiarra, Attorney at Law, Ombudswoman
The information can be given in German and English.
It is also possible to submit reports to the ombudsman's lawyer via our electronic whistleblower system in over 26 languages:
How is anonymity ensured and the whistleblower protected?
The protection and confidentiality of the whistleblower are essential parts of our complaints procedure and are taken very seriously by us. Throughout the procedure, individual measures are developed and taken, depending on the individual case, to ensure the protection of the whistleblower against discrimination or punishment on the basis of information provided. Attempts at intimidation, threats or discrimination against whistleblowers in the workplace will not be tolerated. If you suffer intimidation, threats or reprisals as a result of a tip-off, please contact our ombudsman lawyer or the relevant authorities at TQGG.
As a lawyer, the ombudsman's lawyer is also subject to the lawyer's duty of confidentiality. The contact as well as all information and hints will be treated absolutely confidentially. This is secured by a separate data protection agreement with TQGG as the client.
Your identity will only be disclosed to TQGG with the express consent of the whistleblower. Should your information lead to investigations by the law enforcement authorities, your anonymity is also guaranteed by the lawyer's duty of confidentiality vis-à-vis these institutions.
What happens to a report that has been submitted?
The ombudsman's lawyer examines the information received and undertakes an initial legal assessment. This will be forwarded to Svenja Wachtel, General Counsel at TQGG, for further examination of the facts, provided that the whistleblower has consented to the disclosure. Absolute confidentiality of the information is guaranteed. As far as the information can be substantiated, further measures will be initiated. If the information turns out to be unfounded, the investigation will be terminated. In addition, all personal data will be deleted in accordance with data protection regulations.
The individual steps:
Receipt of the report
The receipt of the report is documented and the whistleblower receives an acknowledgement of receipt from the ombudsman's lawyer after seven days at the latest.
Review of the notice
The ombudsman's lawyer classifies the information thematically and examines it for plausibility. If the information is plausible, it will be forwarded to Svenja Wachtel, General Counsel, for clarification of the facts while maintaining confidentiality.
If the whistleblower wishes to do so, the ombudsman's lawyer will remain in contact with him or her throughout the proceedings. However, only the whistleblower decides on the way in which contact is made.
If the report is not plausible, the proceedings will be discontinued and the whistleblower will be informed.
Clarification of the facts of the case
The General Counsel, in consultation with the Ombudsman, clarifies the facts of the case on a case-by-case basis, in a timely manner and using the full use of her available resources. First of all, it is checked whether sufficient information is available to clarify the facts. If this is not the case, the whistleblower will be contacted by the ombudsman's lawyer to request further information.
If contact is not desired and insufficient information can be gathered elsewhere to clarify the facts, the proceedings will be discontinued. If no misconduct or risk can be identified in the company or among business partners or suppliers, the proceedings will also be discontinued. The whistleblower will be informed accordingly.
Development of solutions
If misconduct or risk is detected, appropriate prevention and/or remedial measures are developed on the basis of the information collected. If possible, reasonable and desirable, the whistleblower will be involved in the development of prevention and/or remedial measures.
No later than three months after the acknowledgement of receipt, the whistleblower receives feedback from the ombudsman's lawyer on the measures planned and already taken, as well as the reasons for them, provided that this does not affect (internal) investigations and the rights of the persons who are the subject of a report and that this is possible within the scope of what is legally permissible.
Initiation of remedial action and follow-up and effectiveness review
The preventive and/or remedial measures adopted are initiated and the implementation is monitored by the General Counsel or a committee appointed for this purpose. In addition, TQGG reviews the effectiveness of the complaints procedure annually and on an ad hoc basis. In particular, feedback from whistleblowers is used for this purpose. If necessary, adjustments are made.
Are there any negative consequences if I make a report?
If you make a report to the best of your knowledge and belief, you will not suffer any disadvantages in the company. However, if you deliberately make a false or bad faith report or if you yourself have violated applicable rules of conduct, TQGG reserves the right to take legal action.
What if the content of the report subsequently turns out to be false?
It is important that you believed or assumed that the content was true at the time of the report and that you did not make the report with abusive intent. If, after clarifying the facts, it turns out that the report was not justified, you do not have to fear any negative consequences.
What happens if you yourself are involved in the grievance?
Even then, you will be encouraged to report the issue in question. When investigating the facts of the case and any sanctions, this will be taken into account as far as legally possible.
Does the whistleblower incur any costs by using the whistleblower system?
There are no costs for the whistleblower.
Does the report create an attorney-client relationship with the ombudsman?
No, there is no attorney-client relationship. The Ombudsman's Counsel is and remains a representative of TQGG. However, due to the legal relationship between the ombudsman and TQGG as the client, there is a "(protective) effect" in favour of the whistleblower. As a result, the ombudsman's lawyer is happy to advise the whistleblower informally on the practical issues of the individual case, but it is not possible for her to represent your legal interests as "your" lawyer.