Complaints and the REAA
It is a fact of life known to all who have been in real estate agency for more than a short time, that we can be seen as easy targets by those who would wish to take advantage of us.
Some try to avoid paying commissions (by various means, and there have been many), while others, on discovering a problem with a recently purchased property, will try to recover the costs from the licensee because of some (alleged) misrepresentation.
In addition to protecting consumer’s interests, protecting ourselves and avoiding these problems has always been an essential part of professional real estate agency practice. However, the scene has changed significantly since the introduction of the Real Estate Agents Act 2008. 
I do not intend to detail the reasons here, nor advise how the public can attack us as that would merely invite more problems.   However, it is very important to appreciate that we now face dangers that no other business faces.   And the costs to us (money and other resources) can be substantial.
The issue then becomes how we handle complaints when we receive them, and there is a Golden Rule:
Treat every complaint with respect and consider every one to be potentially very serious.
This no matter how frivolous or vexatious it might initially appear.  
Even the smallest indiscretion (factual or alleged) could end up as a high profile media headline.   One such example featured a licensee who used the term “get a life” in an email. Irrespective of the detail of the case, this was fodder for the national media who gave it great prominence.   I am unaware of any other business that could face charges, penalties and media coverage for such a comment.
For some reason many people who write restrained and professional letters, irrespective of the provocation, seem to think that emails are private and that they will never be seen by other than the intended recipient.   This is not the case.    Everything we write can be used against us.
The same applies to verbal comments. These might be harder to prove but they can be used against you, gaining greater or lesser credence as the disputing parties gain or lose credibility.  Always remember that it is perfectly legal for one person to record telephone conversations without the other’s knowledge and to later use them in a legal battle.  
Another danger is the lack of appreciation by some licensees of the fact that CAC hearings are generally conducted “on the papers.”    At worst, this means that when you send your response to the REAA, it may not be the beginning of the process where you can, at a later date, attend a hearing, develop your case and question your accuser, as one would normally expect.  
Your response may be treated as your defense and judgment of your conduct may be based on that alone.  
Responding to an REAA complaint notification is not an opportunity to send back an emotive, flippant or abusive response. It is time for a calm, considered and professional response and should address the issues of the complaint, nothing else.   
Any and every communication you send to the REAA can be taken into consideration as part of your conduct, and judged accordingly.
Make a point of reading the CAC and Tribunal decisions. They are great examples of what can go wrong, and are excellent material for weekly sales meetings and reviewing your processes. 
Consider the wise words of the Latin proverb “A wise man learns from the mistakes of others, a fool learns from his own.”
If in doubt, get help - right from the outset.   REINZ cannot provide representation but it will advise you on the type of assistance you may need and where to get it. 
Published March 2011, The Hub, Journal of the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand