Unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect world and from time-to-time things don’t always go to plan. Many companies are fantastic at getting the complaint resolved, but for those times when you’re close to pulling your hair out, we’ve put together a simple guide below.
Step 1 – Make sure you know your consumer rights
The main legal protection you have for goods is also the one most often referred to on TV programmes, the Sales of Goods Act 1979. There are two key aspects that this Act sets out:
1) The goods must be ‘Satisfactory as Described’, which essentially means that if you buy a sweatshirt for example that’s claimed to be made from 100% cotton, that it is actually made of cotton. The goods must also be of satisfactory quality, so for example if the sweatshirt had loose seams, this would fail the test. It is an arbitrary measure and will very much depend on what you believe is ‘reasonable’ – you’re far likely to be upset if the product was very expensive but made of poor quality materials, or produced poorly.
2) The goods must also be ‘Fit for purpose and last a reasonable amount of time’. Again, the word ‘reasonable’ crops up here, which will be based on they type of goods. For example you wouldn’t be happy if a new HiFi stopped working after 1 month, but it may be more acceptable for a throw-away toy. Regarding the ‘fit for purpose’ aspect, this focuses on the fact the goods should do their job – for example a window wiper should clean your windscreen of dirt.
This Act is applied to both goods bought new from shops, as well as second-hand. In the second instance however, the context will be considered, such as the sale price of a second hand car or computer.
For complaints about a service provided, you should familiarize yourself with the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982. This states that the service should be carried out with reasonable car and skill, at a reasonable cost and within a reasonable time. So for example if you don’t believe a broadband provider has met it’s obligations to provide a fix to your lack of access within a specific time frame, or sent someone qualified to fix the fault, this Act may apply.
Step 2 – Decide what you what to achieve by raising a complaint
This may at first appear obvious, such as to get a replacement product or your money back, but without confirming this in your own mind, you won’t be able to focus your evidence. Many people want an apology and reassurance that it was a ‘one-off’ case, if nothing else but to put the mind at rest if it’s one of a preferred set of brands. A few questions to ask yourself are:
1) Do I want my money back or a replacement
2) Have I been inconvenienced and want compensation for this?
3) How much time has been taken up – what compensation figure would I put on this?
4) Do I want an apology from someone in a managerial position?
5) How could the company reassure me this is an isolated case?
Step 3 – Get your evidence together
Evidence may be a strong word, but essentially this is what it is if the case were to end up going before a small claims court. You also need it so that the company can deal with the complaint as it provides verification that what your saying is accurate. Below are a few examples of ‘evidence’ that may be useful:
1) A receipt – either an invoice for a service or for the product you’ve bought
2) Photographs of the fault, or the product itself can be used if, for example it’s broken
3) Documentation of the times of previous communication to the company if you’ve already made an initial complaint. Names of employees is also extremely useful
4) Contracts or Terms & Conditions provided alongside the sale, with relevant parts highlighted. You can also use statements from websites if you felt something was misleading with the service or sale.
Step 4 – Contact the company in question
Ensure you speak to someone who holds a position of management and is within the Customer Services team. You should initially try to speak over the phone, providing details of your complaint and requesting a resolution. It’s likely that you’ll need to email or write to the company with your ‘evidence’, so make sure you take photocopies for your own records. Anything sent via post to the company should also be sent via a Recorded Delivery method, to ensure that they can’t turn around and say they didn’t receive it.
If you’re dealing with a smaller company that doesn’t have a dedicated Customer Services department, ask to speak with the General Manager, Owner or Director – the higher the position the better. CEOMail.com is a great place to get hold of email addresses for CEO’s at companies across the UK, both large and small. If you still have no luck getting a contact number or email address, try to find the email address structure for the company. Most will use first_name[dot]surname[at]companyname[dot]com for example, or without the dot between the first name and surname. You’ll soon know by the fact an email will bounce back to your email account, stating that the email address doesn’t exist.
If this is the second time of raising a complaint for the same issue and you’ve had no luck previously, give the company this further chance to respond. You’ll then be in a stronger position to demonstrate that you’ve them given enough time.
Step 5 – Use official governing bodies if it’s necessary
There is a huge array of different governing bodies for different sectors, from telecoms to finance. Each company has to abide by the rules and regulations set our by these governing bodies, who monitor everything that the company does. They should be your last resort and can be used if the company is not responsive or is refusing to provide you with a refund, but only if the company has broken the terms of the contract or is in breach of your consumer rights.
A few of the larger governing bodies include:
– for communications (TV/phones/internet)
– for energy (gas and electricity)
If you believe that the company has misled you in any way, it may also be appropriate to speak with your local Trading Standards who can investigate your claim.