How do you complain effectively?
So what can you do when you are unhappy with a business that you deal with? Is there a “good” way to complain? There are probably a number of important things you need to do:
1. Know your rights:
The Consumer Protection Act has been very clear about the rights of consumers, and some of the highlights include…
- The right to free and unlimited access to products and services, and to fair value, high quality and safety in those purchased.
- The right to choose whatever businesses you want to deal with. (For example, banks often demand that you deal with their lawyers and insurance companies when they lend you money. They can no longer do so.)
- The right to fair prices, especially when there is differential pricing for different customers; this also includes rights to information, including prices, in plain and understandable language. If two prices are displayed for the same item, you can demand the lowest of the two.
- The right to fair and responsible marketing, especially practices that can be considered misleading, unethical or immoral, such as the use of fear and threats. These rights also extend to reward programmes, coupons, and catalogue purchases where you didn’t have the opportunity to inspect goods.
- The right to stop all direct marketing to yourself any time you want it stopped.
- The right to cancel fixed-term agreements (such as cell-phone contracts), without penalties at the end of the term.
- The right to demand pre-authorisation from you for repairs and maintenance that may surprise you later.
- The right to cancel direct marketing agreements that you signed usually within five days.
- The right to return goods and seek redress when they don’t match your expectations.
- The right to keep and not pay for unsolicited goods or services.
- The right to sales records of all your purchases, and to fair, justifiable and reasonable terms and conditions.
2. Know the facts:
As always, prevention is better than cure, and you need to do you homework before embarking on impulse purchases that you may regret. However, knowing the facts also means that before you complain, you need to get all of your information together, including paperwork, so that your complaint is justified.
It’s always a good idea to have evidence of the date and time of your purchase, the person that you dealt with, copies of receipts and contracts like warranties, letters and emails that may have been sent, photographs of defective goods or videos of deficient service, names of witnesses (if any), and any other evidence that will help you to make your case.
3. Complain when you are calm (if possible):
This is not always possible or easy, and anger can give you the energy you need to defend your rights. However, you need to always understand that anger begets defensive and angry behaviour in response, and you are better off having a calm discussion before you start losing it. Avoid threats and personal attacks on the person dealing with your complaint.
Remember: Resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to get sick.
4. You probably need to state and clarify three things, in writing if necessary:
- That you don’t want to spend time and energy fighting and, in fact, want to give the company a chance to resolve your problem.
- Exactly what it is that you are unhappy with. Be specific, and avoid terms like: “This ice-cream tastes rubbish.”
- At the end of your complaint, ask specifically what they will do to deal with everything, and in particular, set a reasonable deadline for resolution.
What if it is not resolved after your initial action?
First, escalate it to the most senior person in the company. If that doesn’t work, and you are still unhappy, contact the industry ombudsman if one exists. If that doesn’t help, contact the Office of Consumer Protection at 0861 843 384.
If you still don’t get action, then by all means use the other options mentioned in this article, including legal action.