Created by: Felicity Hannah | 22 February 2019

Your rights when you need to complain

Don’t suffer in silence - know your rights and make sure they are met

Are you a complainer? I don’t mean a whinger, I mean someone who is not afraid to stand up for themselves when they’ve received poor service or bought something that simply isn’t good enough.

Many people, especially Brits, suffer in silence when things are just not good enough.

But if you have a genuine complaint then it’s important to have it put right. That way you don’t get left out of pocket and the business improves for future customers.

Here’s a quick guide to your rights when you need to complain:

What can I expect when I spend money?

Your statutory rights are laid down by law and you can’t be asked to give them up. But quite often you need to know what they are to get them enforced.

If you’ve bought an actual item (including digital content like films and music) then it has to be of satisfactory quality, it must be as described, fit for purpose and it has to last for a reasonable length of time.

Lots of that depends on what you’ve bought, of course. For example, the toy you get in a Christmas cracker is not expected to last as long as a new bike.

But those are your basic rights – if they are not met then you can challenge the company that sold it to you.

Wait, the company I bought it from or the company that made it?

Don’t let the retailer fob you off by asking you to complain directly to the manufacturer. If you can prove that you bought it from the retailer then your contract was with them and they should sort it out for you.

It’s then up to them to go back to the manufacturer.

What should I ask for?

If you’re complaining then you should be polite, be firm and be really clear about what you want to happen.

Maybe you want a full refund? Or to swap the item for a non-faulty one? Maybe you want them to pay to fix it?

In a few cases, you might even feel you deserve compensation – if that is the case then you will have a more challenging process and it’s really important to keep notes and records that support your claim.

How soon should I complain?

As soon as possible. If a fault develops then for the first 30 days then you can simply reject the item and demand a refund. If it develops within the first six months then the law assumes the product was faulty to begin with and the manufacturer has to prove that wasn’t the case.

After that, it’s up to you to prove that the item was faulty when you bought it.

The longer you leave it, the harder it can be so submit your complaint as early as possible.

Make your complaint stick

So those are your rights, but how can you make sure your voice is heard? I’ve got some ideas:

1. Stay polite

Don’t give the company any reason to ignore you. Be polite, be controlled, be rigidly formal. 
Most importantly, keep calm and keep insisting on your rights.

2. Keep records

Keep copies of every communication you send, keep proof of postage, keep a record of every time you speak on the phone. 
If you need to escalate your complaint to an ombudsman or watchdog at a later point then you will want to show how many chances you gave the firm to fix your issue.

3. Use social media

Thanks to online platforms like Twitter and Facebook, everyone can publish their experiences.
If you feel that a business isn’t taking your issue seriously enough then call them out for it online. Stay polite and stay reasonable. Maybe even tag a few relevant journalists in your comments. 
Often a bit of online heat can help.

4. Write to the boss

If you’re fed up with waiting for an issue to be resolved then you can always go straight to the top. A letter to the office of the chief executive can often speed up a complaint, particularly if you’ve already tried to sort it via the appropriate channels.
You can usually find contact details online.

5. Find others

The issue you’ve had might be specific to you or it might be affecting lots of other people. If you can find those people then you instantly have more power by joining together.
A few years ago hundreds of a certain brand of car began catching fire. The manufacturer didn’t accept responsibility until those people found each other online and began a campaign. It’s worth looking into whether your complaint is part of a wider issue.


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