How do I file a complaint against a business or contractor?
Whether your problem is a defective appliance or receiving poor workmanship, the first step is to contact the business or organization who sold you the product or service.
Follow these steps:
- Make an informal request for redress (in person) to a person of authority such as the manager or business owner to allow them the opportunity to rectify the problem;
- Make a formal request for redress (in writing) to the business or contractor so as to provide a legal “paper trail” of the dispute;
- File a complaint with Consumer Affairs so that we may guide you in acquiring redress, and to provide mediation or enforcement if the issue is a criminal case. You may easily file a complaint on this site;
- Consumer Affairs will guide you through the procedures of Small Claims Court if mediation is unsuccessful or if the matter extends beyond our jurisdiction of enforcement.
Complaining in Person
- Stop using the item. You may lose the right to reject the goods if you continue to use them once you discover they are defective;
- Contact the business or organization who sold you the product or service. Ask to speak to a person who has the authority to resolve the problem, such as the business owner or manager;
- Be clear as to what you are seeking - refund, compensation, or re-servicing;
- Be firm, polite, but insistent. Do not lose your temper, swear or become personally abusive; show respect
- Do not exaggerate or give false statements regarding the issue;
- Be patient. Give the business or organization the chance to sort out your problem.
*Always keep a record of who you speak to, the date you spoke to them and what was said.
Complaining in Writing
If you are not successful in resolving your issue in person compose a carefully worded letter. You can download sample letters of complaint on the Consumer Affairs web-site.
In order to draft an effective letter of complaint you will need the following:
- Get the name and position of the person you need to write to;
- Give a brief outline of the complaint (including where and when you bought the goods or services and what the problem is);
- Keep your language neutral and professional;
- Provide clear and appropriate grounds for your claim i.e. Sale of Goods Act 1978 (as amended 2002) or the Supply of Services Act 2003;
- Outline a clear request for the redress you are seeking and set a reasonable deadline for the response. This might be 14 days in the case of a request for a refund, but longer if you want a major problem put right;
- Make sure the letter is clear and legible;
- Include your full address, postal code, order number or account number;
- Tell them where you can be contacted during office hours;
- Keep a copy of the letter for your records;
- Do not send original documents, always send photocopies;
- Send the letter by registered post or hand deliver it.
- Keep a record of events. If you speak to someone on the phone make a note of who you speak to, when and what was said. Keep a copy of any letters and any replies you receive.
- Keep the evidence. Retain all receipts/invoices, letters and e-mails regarding products and services that you may have purchased/received. If you are asked to present these at any stage then present copies and keep the originals yourself.
- Remain Calm. Don't let the emotion of the moment get to you. If you are not getting an adequate response then simply take the next step in the procedure as advised above.
- Write clearly and concisely. Be polite and courteous but don't be afraid to convey the detail of any incident and to articulate your disappointment. Be clear about what you think would resolve your complaint.
- Know your rights. See the “Know Your Rights” section of the Consumer Affairs website.
- Don't give up.
- Praise where praise is deserved. Most organisations welcome complaints but certainly praise as well.
If you are not satisfied with the response to your letter, or if you get no response, then you will have to file a complaint with Consumer Affairs in order to receive mediation.
Alternatively, you may have to consider using the small claims procedure at Magistrate's Court. Consumer Affairs will guide you through this process.
What Consumer Affairs can and cannot do when a consumer files a complaint?
A person can file a complaint with Consumer Affairs in one of the following ways – phone, fax, e-mail or on our web site. Once the complaint is received the details are entered into a complaint database system and the complaint/inquiry is then assigned to and reviewed by an Enforcement Officer.
In order for an Enforcement Officer to advise accordingly, the consumer is asked to:
Be completely honest and give all the facts relevant to their complaint.
Listen to the advice and reasons for recommending a particular course of action.
Accept that a solution may not always be found especially if no laws have been broken.
Understand that the office of Consumer Affairs deals with quite a few cases and all cases are handled in the order in which they are received. The Enforcement Officer usually calls clients back within 48 hours after receiving the complaint, depending on the volume of complaints that have been received.
Be patient and courteous to Consumer Affairs’ staff at all times even though they may be angry or upset.
An Enforcement Officer then does the following:
Contacts the complainant and explains the law that is relevant to their case.
Gives the consumer practical ‘first step’ advice to assist the consumer to pursue the complaint which will include an explanation of the choices of actions that are available to the consumer.
Provides next step advice if the consumer is unable to achieve a successful outcome. This could include writing a complaint letter.
Mediate between the parties if the matter still cannot be resolved.
If an Enforcement Officer has reasonable cause to believe an offence has been committed by an individual or company under the Consumer Protection Act 1999, he or she has the authority to enter premises, seize any relevant documents and products and make test purchases.
If the mediation is not successful and the problem has not been resolved, the consumer is then advised to seek legal advice and/or have the case heard in a court of law.
Consumer Affairs cannot do the following:
Demand refunds, replacements or apologies from businesses on your behalf.
Pursue a complaint which in our opinion is unjustified or which is not in the public’s interest.
Give legal advice.
Act as a legal representative on your behalf.
Anonymous calls are not accepted. Complainants must give their real name.
All calls are treated fairly, professionally and confidentially.
Consumer Affairs does not deal with the following:
Controlled drugs as defined in the Misuse of Drugs Act 1972
Tobacco or tobacco products
Pharmaceutical or medicinal products available without prescription