Complaint Letters: Gyzmos's Guide
I've found myself recently writing a few complaint letters of behalf of CAGgers. Don't mind doing it but it does take some time, and they generally tend to be repetitive because the structure is very much the same for each one. So I thought it would be an idea for people to be able to write their own letters of complaint. A major advantage is that you should feel a bit more confident about your complaint. Also, as it is from me, it is bound to be successful . So without further ado.....
THE BEST LETTERS...
...are ones that are polite yet firm and straight to the point. Though you may feel like marching to head office and ripping the throats out of staff, it will not get you anywhere. Venting anger in the letter also tends to wind up whoever is reading it and is less likely to endear that person to helping you out, so keep it civil.
You also need to keep it direct to the point - don't waffle. The reader does not want to know what you had for breakfast or who you met on the way to the shop.
Your letter will most cases will be in three parts:
PART A. The first part will be the introduction and contain basic facts. Simply stating that you have purchased an item, where, when and the cost, and then stating that there is a problem (e.g, “the strap has fallen off”). This part should also contain some flattering remark, such as being recommended by a friend, or have purchased before and ha good experience.
PART B. This goes into more detail and is the bulk of the letter. To complete this part, you need to repeat the above but in more detail. Most importantly, you need to describe the events as well since your first contact, if relevant, or since purchase. You also need to state WHY there is something wrong, e.g, “the table is not the length stated” or “the heel fell off after one day of wearing in the office”. This should also constitute some comparison between what you were expecting and what you actually got. For example, you were told by the assistant that the TV has built-in HDTV recorder but it hasn’t, or that the strap on the handbag should not have come off after two days of normal use.
PART C. Here you need to state what you want doing about it. You should continue to express disappointment at being let down or the product not meeting the sellers “normally high standards”. You must also tie up part B by referring to appropriate legislation. For example, that s. 14 of SoGA requires goods to be of reasonable quality and last a reasonable length of time. Using legislation (and/or case law) adds authority to what you are saying and shows that you know what you are talking about (even if you don’t!), but it may be best to get help if you are not familiar with interpreting legislation – it has its own language and requires knowledge. In this part as well you should put in some veiled threat unless they do what you (reasonably) want, but this should be buried and cushioned by expressing a desire for the company to do what is required. Finish off by stating you expect to hear their agreement promptly.
The links here are examples of letters that I have drafted for CAGers and I will also post examples of some that I have used myself (or would use if the situation arose).
DOs & DON’Ts
- Flatter (but not overly).
- Be polite, however much you may feel like calling them a bunch of baby munching ogres
- Keep to the point. The reader does NOT want to know that Aunty Maud’s bunions are a bit of an embuggerance.
- Enclose copies of supporting documents or details of contacts you have had with the seller. Bullet-point them if you prefer – it tends to make things easier to read.
- Be realistic in what you want. You will not get a full refund on a 5 year old TV (unless they are very generous)
- If you do make a threat, make sure you keep to it or can do it.
- Allow a reasonable length of time to respond. This will vary, but allowing 2 days will not be good enough. 7 days is often used in “final chance” cases. If it is your first letter, 14 days should be reasonable.
- Send the letter by recorded delivery. You will have proof that they have received it
- Keep a copy of your letter.
- Be rude, condescending, sarcastic or otherwise nasty. However justified you are, the chances are that the person reading your letter will have had nothing to do with your situation. Even so, being so negative will disincline the reader to help you.
- Overly threaten. Statements like “I’ll take this to the supreme galactic senate if I have to” or threats of unleashing Hell’s fire and brimstone upon the world will probably make the person roll their eyes and see it as a challenge. It will get you nowhere.
- Lie or exaggerate. Besides morality, you can land yourself in trouble. If the poor service has meant canceling a trip to bingo night, do not say you have had to cancel a two week trip to the Seychelles. You may have to prove it – possibly in court.
- Back down or give up. If the response is not reasonable, keep at them. Some companies simply drag it on in the hope that you will go away. Sometimes this lasts until a court summons or letter before action is sent. Unfortunately, this tactic works all too often which is why it is used. Show them that you will NOT go away!
- Get stressed. It helps no-one, especially you. Whilst easier said than done, in most cases you will look back and regret kicking the cat / kicking the significant other out or breaking the crockery.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT
Well hopefully, you will get a positive response. A refund, repair, compensation or whatever. But this is not always the case.
If they have simply not responded within a reasonable length of time, then write a short letter enclosing copies of previous correspondence and give a shorter time for responsing. Again this letter should be polite but you can be curt (E.g, I wrote to you on XXXX but am disappointed that I have yet to receive a response. I am sure that you are busy and would appreciate your taking time to respond to me within (Half the time that you gave in your last letter but no less than 7 days). I am sure you can correct this oversight.”.
If you still do not get a response then it is a letter before action (LBA). This has no airs or graces about it. Simply repeat that you have written TWICE and that failure to respond will result in a court summons. For this you allow 7 days only.
If you have got a response but are not satisfied, the individual issues need to be addressed. This may require some analytical skills and it could be best to get help to write a response explaining why they are incorrect and give again about half the original time for responding. This however cannot go on forever. If they reply with an unfavourable response then a detailed letter needs to be sent as an LBA. The reason for this is so that if it does go to court, you can show that you have argued your point and raised all relevant issues and expect them to be dealt with.
Keep ALL copies of correspondence (including envelopes if they are date/time stamped) as your evidence as these are useful as evidence.
WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO?
Report concerns to Consumer Direct / Trading Standards. Only do this is you feel uncomfortable dealing with issues and need help, or if the seller has acted unreasonably, such as refusing a repair or refund.
Help can also be gained from your local CAB. These are mostly volunteers but it is free and usually helpful and knowledgeable. It also helps if you have, for example, a contract to wade through or a complicated manner.
Get help from CAG! There are lots of lovely people on here who will be more than happy to help. Some may only be able to offer support whilst others may have in-depth knowledge of specific areas that could help you. You can post your letter here if you want to see if it needs amending or indeed be told it is spot on! Remember to remove any identifying information beforehand.
Using Consumer Direct and CAG is not only helping yourself but helping others as well who may be in the same boat as you.
Do keep CAG updated on your progress and if possible make a donation to help keep the site running.