Consumer Rights: How to Complain

Women exercising her consumer rights and filling a complaint online using her laptop

If you are unhappy with a product or service that you have received, in most cases, you are protected against loss by your consumer rights. Consumers who are unable to resolve their cases with the company in question have many options to avoid going to court, such as complaining to a trade department or an official ombudsman, who can investigate and deal with your complaint. If you believe that you have the right to complain about a product or service, this guide will explain the basic information that you need when looking to get compensation for your case.

What is the Consumer Rights Act 2015?

The Consumer Rights Act was updated in 2015 to establish, consolidate and add to existing protection for customers buying products from businesses. The act makes it simple to complain about services if they are faulty, if contracts have been breached, and allows enforcers to respond to breaches in the act more quickly. However, the most important change in this act for consumers is the fact that it now covers purchases that have been made online, which were not previously as well covered as products bought in store. This includes digital content as well as physical products, such as e-books and digital download, especially if they fail to work in the way stated in the product description.

What are your consumer rights?

Consumers have the right to a refund or exchange if the product in question fails to meet certain standards, such as being faulty or in need of replacement. The failings of the product must fit into one of three categories to be eligible for a complaint. These include the product failing to match the company’s description of it, such as being delivered in a different language than that stated. The product also needs to be of a good quality unless said otherwise, such as working efficiently rather than being damaged. Lastly, the product should fit the purpose that it has been made for, such as DVDs playing films and mobile phones being able to make calls.

What is covered?

There is a variety of different problems that are covered by the act, rather than just issues with products such as damage. These include issues with contracts, such as a breach of terms, counterfeits, problems with store cards and gift cards if they fail to be worth the amount described, poor customer service and a failure to address the concerns or safety of customers, and even the services provided by individuals such as rogue traders. If you have an issue with any of these, you are able to make a viable complaint through government approved means such as a trading standards board.

How do you refer a complaint?

You are able to refer a complaint by contacting an advisory service such as Citizens Advice, who may then be able to pass on your complaint to a relevant trading board, reducing any concerns you may have about the most appropriate channels to forward your complaint through. Before you are able to complain to a trading board though, you should consider complaining directly to the business first to establish whether they are willing to help you with your complaint. If you are still having issues with getting the appropriate help after complaining in person, you should send a letter of complaint or complain in another written format., which will then be passed on to the head office of the firm and can help you to get the resolution that you are looking for.

How do you complain to an Ombudsman?

The next step if your case is not able to be resolved internally is to consider complaining to an ombudsman, which are able to support certain industries with issues such as complaints specific to the sector in question. It is free to complain to an ombudsman, and they may be able to get the resolution that you are looking for through more official channels. You should always make sure that you make a complaint in person first, however, and make sure you complain to the right ombudsman to get the help that you need.

If this does not still get you the compensation that you are looking for, it is possible to take your case to court, although you should try to avoid this. County court cases can ensure that action is taken above the power of an ombudsman, and you should send a letter of action before you opt for court action. You can take court action by seeking a solicitor who can advise you on the next steps before your case is brought to the small claims court, which covers claims of under £10,000.

Where can you get advice?

Before you make any steps to getting the resolution that you want, you should opt to speak about your case with Citizens Advice, who can give you the best options for your case and help you to write and conduct any letters of complaint that you need to create. They can also lead you as to the next steps after direct communication with the company in question, as well as guide you in terms of your rights in your specific situation. It is important that you are able to do this to ensure that you know your rights and the next steps in any given situation, as well as whether your case is strong enough to go to court.

Although needing to complain about a product or service that you have received can be a long and disheartening process, there are only a few simple steps that you need to take in order to get the compensation and refund that you deserve. Whether you need to take your case to court or manage to resolve the case through a written contract, the importance of following the right steps and having the correct knowledge for your individual case is important, which you can further expand by contacting your local Citizen’s Advice service or contacting a solicitor.