How to Complain

Complaining can be a delicate art. Unfortunately, when you have been treated poorly by a company, finding yourself on the receiving end of shoddy goods or services, handling things delicately might be the last thing you feel like doing.

It may be very tempting to march into a store and cause a ruck, send an angry letter, or even take to Twitter to express your outrage. However, if you take a more reasoned approach and follow the company’s complaints process (and if necessary, the complaints process for that industry) you are likely to enjoy better luck in terms of seeking satisfaction.

Write a Complaint Letter

The complaint letter is a useful tool, and the ideal way to begin your complaint against the company in question. Writing a complaint letter allows to arrange your thoughts and make your point clearly – if you make your complaint in person or over the phone, you may miss out an important detail, or inadvertently say something that weakens your complaint.

Also, sending a letter allows you to accumulate evidence of all correspondence with the offending company, which will be useful if you are forced to take your complaint further.

You should consider sending any complaint letters via recorded delivery. Being made to sign for the letter will prevent the company from claiming ignorance of the complaint.

How to compose your letter

Your letter should be firm, but avoid being emotive or overly accusatory. It should clearly state:

  • What happened (along with evidence, such as a receipt)
  • What you want to happen (a specific request for a refund or replacement – always send copies)
  •  Why you are allowed this (reiterate your rights under the Sales of Goods Act, for example)
  • Give a deadline for their reply (two weeks is a good amount of time)

Don’t apologise or accept blame in any way, and make it clear that you know your rights and are willing to enforce them. The stronger and more aware of your rights you come across, the less likely it is that the company will attempt to stiff you in terms of compensation.

Naturally, your letter should also be well presented, and correct in terms of spelling and grammar.

Where should I send my letter?

It’s usually best to start small – if your qualm is with a member of staff in chain store, it would be appropriate to start by contacting the manager of that store. If they are unhelpful, you can consider taking your complaint up the chain towards the company that licenses the store.

In other cases – perhaps when you have bought something that you feel was falsely advertised by the company, it may be more appropriate to go straight to the main company.

What if the company won’t help?

If the company rejects or ignores your complaint, or fails to offer compensation to a satisfactory level, it may be time to take your complaint to an Ombudsman or regulator.