How to complain to a company if you didn't get what you paid for

Didn't get what you paid for? You have a right to complain. Use our guide to help you get your money back or get the item you wanted in the first place.

1 Complain to the retailer

If you bought your item on the high street and it wasn’t as described, wasn’t of satisfactory quality or wasn’t fit for purpose, then go back to the store and complain to the manager.

If you bought the item online, then email the company immediately, explaining how the product you’ve received differs from what you thought you were buying.

Give the company anything that supports your complaint, such as any advert, brochure or catalogue the item was described in.

If the product you bought is fine but just isn't quite what you wanted, returning the item depends on the company's returns policy for items bought on the high street. 

For non-faulty items bought online, the Consumer Contracts Regulations give you 14 calendar days from the day you receive your goods to cancel your order and get your money back.

Some items can't be returned though, such as CDs, DVDs and computer software where the seal has been broken, as well as made-to-order and personalised items.

2 Reject the item and get a refund

From 1 October 2015, under the Consumer Rights Act you have the right to reject goods that are unsatisfactory quality, unfit for purpose or not as described and get a full refund.

But this right is limited to 30 days from the date you purchased the product.

However, this right to a refund doesn’t apply to digital content.

If you made the purchase before 1 October 2015, the Sale of Goods Act applies and you have a less clear 'reasonable time' - typically not more than three to four weeks from when you bought the item - to make a return for a refund.

You do not have to accept credit notes or vouchers for a faulty good. 

3 Ask for a replacement

If more than 30 days has passed, then you can ask for a repair or a replacement. 

Or if you don't want to reject the item within the first few weeks, you can also ask for it to be repaired or replaced. 

You can choose either of these, but the retailer will probably insist on providing whichever is the cheapest option for them. 

If the attempt at a repair or replacement fails, than you're entitled to a refund - no deductions can be made from a refund in the first six months after purchase. 

4 Write a complaint letter 

If the company won’t help or says you have to take the matter up with the manufacturer, email or write a letter of complaint to the company, stating the problem and the solution you want.

If the letter is going to a particular branch of the company, make sure you also send a copy to head office.

You can use our template letter asking for a faulty item to be repaired or replaced.

Sending a letter of complaint is particularly important if you want to reject the item and get a refund, as it shows you’ve exercised this right within a reasonable time.

Use our template letter if you want to reject your product and get a refund

5 Go to the ombudsman

The Consumer Ombudsman deals with all consumer complaints in sectors not already covered by an ombudsman scheme, with a focus on home maintenance, improvements or installation services, retail, second-hand cars and car repairs as well as servicing.

You can escalate your complaint to the ombudsman providing you have given the company a reasonable amount of time - usually up to eight weeks - to resolve your problem.

If the company is willing to work with the ombudsman to resolve your complaint, the aim is to reach a resolution within 10 working days.

If the company is unwilling to work with the ombudsman – or a resolution that both parties are satisfied with can't be reached – the Consumer Ombudsman will advise you on what to do next.

If you want to escalate your complaint to the ombudsman, you can use our advice on taking your complaint to an ombudsman.

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