Want to get your money back after receiving poor goods or services?
Of course, companies and businesses make it intentionally difficult for you to complain; the more effort involved, the less likely you are to do it. Many people often just don’t know how to complain.
However – once you know how, complaining is actually not as difficult as you think.
- Use social media to get your money back
- Read our step-by-step guide on how to complain successfully
- Common complaints and how to get your money back
- What successful complainers know
- Tips from a professional complainer
Believe it or not, you can even make money from complaining. In fact, do it right and you could get yourself all sorts of compensation.
With the rise of Twitter and Facebook, increasingly customers are turning to social media outlets to vent their frustration against companies. While writing incoherent, angry rants against companies on social media platforms may not be the best way to solve a problem, more and more companies are improving their response rate to carefully-written complaints on these outlets.
And why not? With people able to tweet and re-tweet comments on Twitter and leave comments on a company’s Facebook page for the world to see, reputations can be damaged very quickly. Often it’s the easiest way you can make a complaint about a company.
So how do you get your voice heard?
They key to successfully complaining on Twitter is to find the company’s own Twitter page. When writing your complaint you should include “@insertcompanynamehere” somewhere in your tweet alongside your problem so the company sees it. You may also ‘hashtag’ the company’s name as well by putting #insertcompanynamehere at the end of your tweet. Even if the company does not have its own Twitter page, it may check to see what people are writing about it and the ‘hashtag’ will always show up.
On Facebook nearly all companies have their own page, so you simply need to look them up and then write on their wall. There have been many cases where people have turned to social media after being frustrated over the phone and they have found it much quicker and more efficient.
You might be angry at having received poor service or substandard goods (and rightly so) – but you need to keep a cool head to complain effectively.
Obviously don’t be a push-over, but if you’re polite and reasonable, you’re a lot more likely to get a successful outcome than if you just shout your head off at the nearest sales assistant.
Step 2 – Strike while the iron is hot
As soon as you become aware of a problem, you should start the complaint process.
It puts you in a much stronger position than if you wait around for a few weeks before doing anything, and shows the organisation involved that you mean business.
Step 3 – Do your research
Spend some time looking up the relevant complaints procedure for your particular problem and make sure you’re aware of your rights as a consumer.
That way, you won’t waste time complaining through the wrong channels, speaking to the wrong departments and asking the wrong questions – only to find you have to start the process all over again!
Have a look at the Common complaints section for some of the more usual methods of complaining, and if your particular situation isn’t covered try having a look at the following websites.
Financial Ombudsman Service: For advice and information about complaints relating to a personal finance product or company.
Citizens Advice Bureau Complaints Templates: For loads of information on consumer affairs and advice on complaining about a variety of different services. They also have template letters you can copy and use to complain about all sorts of issues.
Money Advice Service : For advice on how to complain about money related issues.
Ofcom: For advice on complaining about communications – phone, internet, television and radio.
You can find out about other organisations that deal with complaints on the Gov.uk site here.
Step 4 – Get organised
Before you go back to the shop or pick up the phone, get a clear idea of exactly what it is you want to say and what you hope to achieve from your complaint. For example, are you looking for compensation or simply a replacement of faulty goods?
If it helps, make some notes for yourself so you have an idea of exactly what you’re going to say. If you are clear yourself about this, you’ll be able to present your argument in a plain and straightforward manner.
Step 5 – Keep records
Make sure you keep a record of the names and contact details of all the people you deal with throughout the complaint process, including the name of any individuals you wish to complain about.
Also ensure you keep records of any correspondence you have with any contacts or departments, and send them copies as well.
Step 6 – Don’t back down
Never take ‘no’ for an answer. If you’re certain you have a legitimate complaint you should make sure you use all the professional help you can get to change the company’s view and make them see things from your perspective.
Similarly, don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ – the first offer of compensation may not be the highest one, even if it is described as ‘final’.
As soon as you realise there is something wrong with the item you’ve bought, you should take it back to the original retailer with as much of the original packaging as you have, and better still with the receipt if you have it.
Make sure you are clear about whether you want the item repaired or replaced, or if you want your money back instead.
If the representative you speak to refuses to help, ask to speak with the manager. And if they’re reluctant to do anything, request their address and a contact at their customer complaints department, where you can send your complaint in writing.
Your Rights: Under the Sale of Goods act, you’re entitled to a repair or replacement of any faulty or broken goods at any time up to six years after you brought the item. This is providing the goods could reasonably be expected to have lasted that long.
The Consumer Protection Act requires a company to compensate a consumer for any injury or property damage incurred directly as a result of a faulty product.
More Help: Check out the CAB Advice guide and have a look at our sample letter on complaining about faulty items.
If a trader has not provided you with adequate services, you should tell them straight away and give them the opportunity to put things right, which they should do free of charge.
If the trader refuses to do this, you should be entitled to a full refund or even compensation if the problem is particularly serious.
In either case, you should contact the trader with your complaint, and set a time limit for sorting the problem out. Ideally you should put your complaint in writing, addressed to the owner or manager (even if you’ve already contacted them in person, or over the phone).
Your Rights: As a consumer you are entitled to services which are:
- Carried out with reasonable care and skill;
- Finished by the date you agreed with the provider of the service, or finished within a reasonable time;
- Provided at the cost you have agreed or at a reasonable cost if you haven’t agreed one.
More Help: Check out a sample complaint letter here and have a look at the CAB advice guide.
THE PARKING FINE
The mere mention of these dreaded words will no doubt already have some of you foaming at the mouth, but fear not. We have a great article explaining exactly what to do – Parking Tickets: get them sorted, and here are a few extra things you should know.
Your Rights: Everyone has the right to appeal against a parking fine if they feel it has been given incorrectly. You may be entitled to appeal if:
- The information on the PCN is wrong or incomplete;
- The parking offence did not occur. For instance, you were entitled to stop because you were loading or you had a pay and display ticket, but it wasn’t seen;
- There were exceptional circumstances;
- There are compelling reasons; i.e. reasons beyond the legal grounds.
More Help: Check out our article on how to get your parking fines reversed.
CANCELLED OR DELAYED FLIGHTS
With the recession forcing several airlines into trouble – or out of business altogether – this seems to be a common theme at the moment. Here’s what you should know.
Try to speak to someone on the spot and find out who is responsible for what went wrong. If you get no immediate results, you should write a letter of complaint to the customer relations department of the airline or the tour operator.
If you think you are entitled to compensation but don’t receive any from the airline, you should contact the Civil Aviation Authority.
If your flights were part of a holiday package, you should contact the tour operator. If they do not provide a satisfactory response you should contact the Citizens Advice service.
Your Rights: If your flight is delayed more than 5 hours and you decide not to travel as a result, you are entitled to a full refund of your ticket.
If your flight is cancelled you are entitled to financial compensation unless you were informed 14 days before the flight, you were re-routed close to your original time, or the airline can prove the cancellation was caused by extraordinary circumstances.
Depending on the circumstances, if your flight is delayed or cancelled, you may be entitled to receive assistance such as catering, communications and an overnight stay if necessary.
‘Extraordinary circumstances’ includes an airline going bust, so if this is the reason for your flight cancellation you cannot claim compensation from the airline. You are, however, covered by the following:
- Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act if you paid for the flight with a credit card or Visa debit card;
- Your travel insurer may also cover you for scheduled flights, so check your policy;
- If your flight was booked as part of a package, or through an ATOL bonded travel agent.
These are therefore options to seriously consider whenever you book a flight!
Which? also have some sample complaint letters for:
- Substandard Holiday Accommodation
- Poor Restaurant Service
Beware the customer services helpline!
If you want to make a phone call to complain, or you have to for any reason, that’s fine. But be prepared for some frustration! You will invariably be waiting on the phone for some time, and it’s quite likely you’ll be transferred from department to department and maybe even cut off along the way.
Write to the CEO
If you get really frustrated, email the CEO of the company – you can find email addresses for CEOs of all listed companies here – and complain to them.
Admittedly, the CEO himself/herself won’t read it but their PA will and they will have to do something about it. It takes their time and effort and they don’t like it, so you’re more likely to get something done about it.
Never send away any original documents to anyone.
If you are asked for them, or you think they would help with your complaint or appeal, send photocopies only. You must always keep the originals safe as they are your proof.
Don’t forget, there’s always our Rip-Off Britain articles where you can let off some steam about any consumer niggles that are bothering you! We try our best to look into anything brought up here and on our Facebook page, so feel free to post your queries and we’ll see what we can find out for you.
Tira Shubart is a TV producer, regular MoneyMagpie reader and an increasingly-professional complainer!
“To paraphrase Ivana Trump,” she says, “Don’t get angry, get satisfaction!
“Life doesn’t have to be unfair if you know you rights and learn how to complain. Not only does complaining make you feel better, it can benefit you in many different ways and put money in your pocket.
“For a start, banks may be necessary but they can drive us mad in many different ways from charging unfair overdraft charges to losing a will in their safekeeping. Both have happened to me.
“Start by deciding what you want in compensation. How much stress has it cost you? Stick to that figure as you go through the complaint procedure. Start by speaking to the bank—always take careful notes and names. Follow this up with a letter detailing your complaint and request for compensation. If this doesn’t work, go to the bank’s website and find the name of the head of customer relations. Write them and, once again, detail your complaint and be polite. Keep asking for compensation. Also tell them you are now considering changing your bank. Remember; nearly all businesses will pay you something in the end, if only to end the flow of letters and documentation they have to deal with. So stay tenacious and stay polite.
“After being treated quite rudely and not receiving proper service from one credit card company, I wrote a long, detailed and polite letter to the head of customer relations. In a moment of inspiration, I sello-taped a corner of my credit card to the bottom of the letter explaining I had no option but to cut up the card (and remember there are always dozens more credit card companies that want your business). Two days later I received a personal phone call from the head of customer relations, a very polite apology and a cheque for £50 as “an act of goodwill.” They also sent me a replacement credit card!
“Another credit card company send me an incorrect monthly bill. I rang up and told them I was shocked as I had considered them one of the great institutions of the western world (flattery does work!). The charming man who answered my call apologised on behalf of the company and issued me a chunk of airmiles to make me feel better. And I did!
“It’s the same with airlines. Polite detailed letters whatever the complaint, always with the tone “more in sorrow than in anger”. Ask for compensation; a reduction on a fare, a free flight, an upgrade, airmiles…use your imagination. I have received 20,000 airmiles as an apology once (which is a free trip to Paris) and a giant chocolate rabbit at Easter time.
“I have even managed to get satisfaction with parking tickets! So many local authorities now benefit from money raised by parking tickets that the financial incentive to issue tickets can be strong. So if you feel you have been wrongly issued a parking ticket—for any number of reasons—do something about it.
“Start by writing a clear, detailed and very polite letter to the relevant authority explaining why the ticket was wrongly issued. They may reply to say the ticket was correctly issued and valid. But there is almost always a second opportunity to state your case…so write, once again, a detailed and very polite letter. Remember to sound like a sane, civilised person!
“Your second letter will usually go to an adjudicator. An adjudicator will read many, usually badly written and angry, letters. Your polite and reasoned letter—the more details the better—will be a welcome relief. They will almost always decide in your favour. I recently got out of a £100 fine and ticket this way (the ticket was indeed wrongly issued).
“If a court date is offered, take it! 90% of the time the traffic warden who issued the ticket won’t turn up and the ticket will be declared invalid. Usually the magistrate will tell you that much time is wasted by local authorities not contesting tickets.
“Finally, remember that you have actually done a public service by complaining; regulations have been changed, bad commercial practices curtailed, and service industries redesigned by the feedback that complainers provide.”
For loads more handy information on complaining, check out these helpful websites: