Consumer rights expert and founder of The Complaining Cow, Helen Dewdney, gives her Top Ten Tips for hassle-free complaining
Have you ever been disgusted with service you have received from a company or organisation but done nothing about it? Annoyed by the way a customer services representative dealt with your complaint but never took it further? Have you been appalled after purchasing something that just wasn’t worth the money or shouldn’t have been charged in the first place? Ever wasted your time moaning about it to anyone who would listen but not done anything more? If your answer to any of the questions was yes but the last one was no then you are NOT complaining effectively, you’re moaning!
Helen Dewdney, is The Complaining Cow, a consumer blogger and author of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! She believes passionately in asserting your legal rights and ensuring that you don’t get fobbed off by retailers.
What do you do if you receive poor service or a faulty item? Do you just let it go and then you are out of pocket? Do you have a go at trying to get your money back and get told things by the retailer that make you think that you aren’t entitled to anything? You are entitled to redress if things go wrong! So what should you do to ensure that you get what you are due?
Helen has kindly given her Top 10 Tips for successful complaining.
1) From October 1st 2015 you are covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015. (For purchases made before this date you are covered by the Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1994 and for services, the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982). The Act also covers digital goods which previous Acts did not. Products must be:
i. Of satisfactory quality
ii. Fit for purpose
iii. Last a reasonable length of time
iv. Match the description
And services must be:
v. Carried out with reasonable skill and care
vi. Items sold as part of service must also be fitted correctly when part of the contract
2) You have 30 days in which to demand a full refund for items that do not meet the above standards. After this time the retailer can insist on providing a replacement or repairing the faulty item. When complaining quote your legal rights, as it shows you know your stuff and mean business so that you are less likely to be fobbed off.
3) Always complain in writing (unless you are returning an item to a shop or it is urgent). This gives you time to think, attach evidence, organise thoughts and most importantly gives you a paper trail should you need to take the matter further.
4) Be polite. The people you are dealing with aren’t usually the people who have caused the problem! Don’t apologise for complaining though. It is your right if something has gone wrong to gain redress and keep that in mind.
5) Be objective, clear, succinct and if the complaint is long provide bullet points and a summary of what has happened.
6) Ensure that you end your email/letter with what you want. For example an apology, an explanation, a refund, reimbursement for out of pocket expenses etc. and set a deadline for when you expect a reply before you will take the matter further.
7) Inform the company what you will do if you do not receive the redress to which you are entitled. This may be going to the relevant ombudsman or taking the matter to the Small Claims Court. Do not threaten the media unless your complaint has been going on for a long time and involves large amounts, as the media will not be interested. The company knows this and it will be an empty threat.
8) Make sure that you have read through Terms and Conditions for any contracts but bear in mind that if you feel that any of these are unfair that you may also be able to claim for an “unfair contract”. This is covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008
9) Follow company procedures. So, for example, when complaining to an energy supplier you will need to follow their internal complaints procedure before going to the ombudsman to show that you have tried everything to resolve that matter.
10) If you don’t get what you want through customer services, take the matter higher by going to the CEO. You can find CEO contact details for any company on the website ceoemail.com
Sometimes you will get a response from the CEO but most times the CEO will pass it to his/her executive team, providing a superior form of customer services. Unless it is a serious complaint go to customer services first or the CEO may drop it right down and you will delay the outcome.
Final pre-sending checklist – Have you included…
- Your name and address
- Your email address
- Any reference numbers
- A description of the problem
- What you want as a solution
- Checked grammar and spelling
By following these simple tips, you will always gain redress! Good luck and don’t be fobbed off!