As Brits we are often so polite that even if we receive shoddy service or experience faulty products, we rarely complain. We smile, thank the person providing us with the terrible meal and go home cross, but simply muttering under our breaths! However it is actually really important to complain so it is time we did more of it! Many people are suffering in silence and as a result they are letting firms get away with providing shoddy service. A typical business hears from just 4% of its dissatisfied customers! Unless people start to make a stand, the same problems will be faced by consumers time and time again. Consumers need to make a stand and take the power back.
How to complain
If it is a service you are complaining about, then try to contact the person you originally dealt with and if they can't help, ask for details of the official complaints procedure and the name of the person who will be handling your complaint. Then put your complaint in writing keeping things brief and setting out all of the facts. Write 'complaint' at the top of your letter and make sure you include important details like your customer number or your policy or account number. Send copies of any relevant paperwork that you believe backs up your case. Keep a copy of any letters sent and received.
If your complaint is less serious using Facebook or twitter is a very effective way to complain direct to companies. It saves hours holding on the telephone and often gets you a response immediately. Use their 'wall' or 'twitter feed' to ask questions or raise problems, especially to digital TV or broadband companies and energy or utilities companies. We managed to get a broadband issue sorted out ten days before a neighbour who was using the call centre to solve their problem! If complaining in person, try to stay calm and polite, however angry or upset you are. This will help you to explain your complaint as clearly and effectively as possible.
Since October shoppers are to be entitled to a full refund up to 30 days after buying an item which turns out to be faulty. This means that retailers are no longer able to offer time consuming and inconvenient repairs instead of a refund. Although you still have 6 months to ask a seller to repair or replace a faulty item, if it then continues not to work, you now have a legal right to a return or a replacement. Remember, many products, especially electrical items, will come with a guarantee or warranty so just make sure you keep that safe as it can be used to get you a free repair or replacement. Some stores will try and sell you an extended warranty but often it works out cheaper to replace the item yourself so weigh it all up before jumping into spending more. Remember, buying goods using a credit card offers you greater protection if there is anything wrong with the products you have bought as the credit card provider is jointly liable and will help if there are any problems. If you are returning something faulty through the post, you should never be liable for postage.
The Private Sector
Apparently, a third of people who experience a problem with public services don't complain, with most not doing it because they think it is not worth the effort to complain or because consumers are confused about which Ombudsman to turn to when they have a problem so here are some helpful tips.
NHS and other Government organisations:
• More than four in 10 thought a complaint with a GP would go to the Department of Health. It is actually the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO)
• The PHSO deal with complaints about government departments and agencies in the UK and the NHS in England
• There are separate agencies in Scotland and Wales
• You can find loads of information here
Financial Services Ombudsman:
• If you have received poor service from a financial institution you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman, but you need to know that it is a long process!
• First complain to the bank directly and allow them the chance to look into your complaint. Many mistakes or problems are easily rectified without having to involve the Ombudsman. Your bank then has eight weeks to come back to you.
• If, after the bank has responded, you are still not satisfied then you can contact the Ombudsman. They then decide if your complaint is valid. You are best to call them first on 0800 023 4567.
• The Ombudsman can receive almost 200,000 complaints a year so it can take time - good luck!
Whatever you need to complain about, just make sure that you do it vocally!
For more information on how to claim for mis-sold financial products, please visit the claims pages on the letssavemoney websiteSuggest a correction