youAs tempting as it may be to air your phone for instant results, always put your complaints in writing. It allows you to keep a record and a timeline, order the facts and moderate your emotions. Email is the best. Do not forget to put your full name, address and customer reference / reservation / order number so that the company can identify you in the system. Make it clear in the title of the email that it is a complaint. Some companies cleverly stifle whistleblowers by hiding their contact details. If so, go straight to the top. You can find the email addresses of the CEOs.
Be courteous, concise and lucid. Businesses are likely to pay more attention to formal and grammatical emails. They will assume that the customer knows what he is talking about. Explain the problem clearly, attach supporting documents if relevant, and specify what result you are looking for and your deadline. Don’t ramble. Do not insult. AND DON’T SHOUT IN CAPS!
Take a mini crash course in consumer law via Google so you can cite any relevant regulations that support your claim. A good starting point is the 2015 Consumer Rights Act, which requires merchants to refund, repair or replace goods (or services) that are not as described or of satisfactory quality. Citizens Advice offers letter templates, or you can connect through the Resolve complaint website.
If your initial proposal falls on deaf ears, escalate by following the company’s complaint process, which should be detailed on their website. At this stage, it is worth keeping a record of who you contacted, when and what the response was.
If that fails, your next step is an ombudsman or alternative dispute resolution (ADR) service. Some sectors, such as finance, energy and telecommunications, have to sign up to a scheme, for others it is voluntary. The company complaints service should point the way, or there is a list of schemes on the Chartered Trading Standards Institute website. Small claims court is an option if there is no applicable ADR or if you do not accept an ombudsman’s decision. Send one last “letter before action” to the company to put pressure on them.
A useful endorsement is section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. This allows you to claim a refund through your bank if you paid by credit card and the goods or services cost £100 or more. Debit card payments are protected by a voluntary chargeback scheme.