consumer affairs bermuda

How to file a complaint

05/14/2010 | The office of Consumer Affairs gets its fair share of calls from people with complaints about local businesses. But some consumers are in the dark when it comes to lodging a complaint.

Yes, there are people in Bermuda who do not know how to complain - complain properly, that is.

Many consumers do not even realise they have the right to complain about unfair trade practices and product safety.

You do - and there are ways to do it that can, in most cases, resolve issues.

Whether your problem is a defective appliance or you have received poor workmanship, your first step is to contact the organisation.

First, complain in person and follow these steps:

• Stop using the item. You may lose the right to reject the goods if you keep using 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 owner or manager;

• Be clear as to what you want, be it compensation, a refund or re-servicing;

• Be firm, polite but insistent. Show respect - do not lose your temper, swear or become personally abusive;

• Do not exaggerate or give false statements regarding the issue;

• Be patient. Give the business 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.

If you are not successful in resolving your issue, complain in writing.

Compose a carefully worded letter. You can download sample letters of complaint on the Consumer Affairs website.

To draft an effective letter, do 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, like the Sale of Goods Act 2002 or 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 and a contact phone number;

• Keep a copy of the letter for your records;

• Do not send original documents, always send photocopies;

n Send the letter by registered post or hand deliver it.

Remember to 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 you purchased/received.

If you are asked to present these at any stage, present copies and keep the originals yourself.

Remain calm. Do not 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 do not 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 this section of the Consumer Affairs website.

Give praise when it 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 do not get a response, file a complaint with Consumer Affairs to receive mediation.

Alternatively, you may have to consider using the small claims procedure at Magistrate's Court. Consumer Affairs can guide you through this process.

Honey Adams is the education officer for the office of Consumer Affairs, within the Ministry of Culture and Social Rehabilitation's Department of Human Affairs. For more consumer savvy information, visit www.ca.gov.bm.