How to Resolve Consumer Complaints
Source: Consumer Measures Committee, Office of Consumer Affairs, Industry Canada
It can happen to the most careful of us. You lay out your hard-earned money for a product or service, only to find that you haven’t got what you paid for, or thought you paid for. When this happens, sometimes the only thing to do is complain.
In fact, it is your responsibility as a consumer to complain about poor services and products. An effective complaint will benefit you and others, as well as encourage the company to be more responsible. If your complaint is valid and if you know how to complain effectively, you have a much better chance of obtaining satisfaction, whether through a return or exchange, a full or partial refund, damages or even just an apology.
Step 1) Complain in person/by phone at the point-of-sale
Speak to the sales clerk and then move on to the customer service department or the manager. Be prepared to clearly explain your problem and why you are dissatisfied.
Keep a written record of the call/visit including:- Whom you talked to (name or title, representative #)- When?- What was their response?
- Obtain a reference number of the correspondence, if available
If the seller or retailer does not satisfy you, move to next step.
Step 2) Write a Complain Letter to the next level up
Identify the right person to send your letter to. If you are complaining about the quality of a product, the letter should be addressed to the manufacturer of the product. If you are dissatisfied about the service, the letter should be sent to the business's head office or the store owner.
Keep copies of your complaint letter and related documents. Send your letter by a method that will prove the letter was received (e.g. via fax, email or registered mail). See a sample of complaint letter on next page.
If you still have no response or your complaint is still not resolved, move to next step.
Step 3) File the complaint to the appropriate regulatory agency/association
File your complaint to a third party organization for resolution. Check the list of organizations with formal complaint resolution procedures at the last section of the book.
Last Resort - Consider Legal Options
If you still cannot resolve your dispute, you can pursue the matter in Small Claims Court or in Supreme Court.
Tips for Effective Complaining
Do not be afraid to complain. Good businesses will be pleased to correct any mistake on their part. They know that customer goodwill is the best form of advertising.
Do not procrastinate. If a product is defective or unsatisfactory, it is important that you return it quickly so that you do not lose the right to get your money back.
Be prepared to negotiate realistically. Businesses that don't give refunds might be persuaded to exchange or repair your purchase or make other arrangements.
Be polite. Be calm. You'll get better—and maybe quicker—results if you explain the problem and ask for a resolution without resorting to anger or threats.
Keep good records. Always keep a file of important information. Include the sales receipts, repair orders, warranties, cancelled cheques, contracts and any letters you have written to or received from the company concerned. Note the names of people you talk to, as well as the dates, times and outcomes of the conversations. Clear facts and complete evidence helps you to ask for what you want.
Talk to the right person. Complain to someone who has the authority to help you. Find out if the person you are dealing with is in fact able to help solve your problem.