How to complain successfully

Ellen Henderson (Student)

Now we’ve had the highs of Christmas shopping, some of us may be experiencing the lows of disappointing products.

Don’t despair, remember you’re a consumer…

Be empowered and know your rights

  • The Consumer Rights Act 2015 will be your new best friend in these kinds of situations.
  • The legislation states that the item must be fit for purpose, satisfactory quality, match the description provided, and last a reasonable length of time.

Make a folder

  • Set up a folder (on-line or actual physical folder) designated just to this issue
  • Keep a record of the name(s) of who you spoke to, the date of that conversation /email and what the outcome was – even if they didn’t answer the phone or respond to the email.
  • Keep any receipts, invoices, delivery notes, or marketing material in this folder too.

What is your complaint about?

  • Why are you unhappy with this product? Know what your complaint is about – take photographs (if you can).
  • In just a few words, bullet point each issue and use this when you are communicating with the business.

What do you want out of the situation?

  • Have an ultimate goal in mind – it might be an apology, a repair, a replacement or a refund. Be honest and realistic with yourself.
  • Know what you are willing to settle for, as you may need to compromise.
  • Ask yourself, ‘how far am I prepared to take this’?

 Keep calm and focus

  • Give the situation some claim consideration before complaining – don’t act impulsively in the heat of the moment.
  • Don’t lose your temper, it will only muddy the waters and divert from what you really want out of the situation.
  • Keep calm and stick to your bullet points.

Win them over

  • Make it clear you’re not complaining about the person you are speaking to, but about the business because of the service or product they have provided.
  • Remember that you want the person receiving the call or email to do something for you i.e. take it seriously, work with you, escalate the matter, make you an offer.
  • You have more chance of achieving your ‘goal’, if you can win them over and make get them understand your disappointment.

Escalate your complaint

  • If you’re not getting anywhere with customer services, go higher by asking for their line manager or head office. If that does not work ask for their formal complaints procedure.
  • Write a letter of complaint using your bullet points. Include the record of your attempts to resolve the issue with the company and make it clear what you want.

Don’t lose the momentum

  • Don’t be tempted to put your head in the sand, there are often deadlines to complaining.
  • Often companies will be hoping that you’ll go away. Ignoring you can be a deliberate tactic they deploy.
  • Stay focused and determined, keep escalating until you find somebody who hears the issues you are raising.

  Taking the matter further

  • Trading Standards – If you have a complaint about goods or services.
  • The Ombudsman covers some services e.g. Energy, Communication, Financial, among others. Generally, you can’t use an ombudsman until you have exhausted the internal complaints procedure.
  • Mediation – A mediator can help both sides work out an agreement. Sometimes this can be quicker and cheaper than going to court.
  • County Court – Apply to a county court to claim money you’re owed by a person or business (claim form N1): Example Costs:

Claim amount up to £300  cost:£35 (paper) or £25 (online)

Claim amount between £5,000.01 to £10,000  cost:£455 (paper) or £410 (online)

Legal advice

  • Some house or car insurance policies include a free legal helpline where you can get advice on your rights and how to pursue a complaint.
  • Citizens Advice Bureau
  • Or make an appointment with SULAC for free legal advice
  • Contact: 01782 294800








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