There are many reasons why you may wish to complain to a company. Whatever your complaint, you should give the company a chance to put things right.
So, the first step is to complain directly to the company in question. It’s best to put your complaint in writing, either in a letter or by email.
If the company has an official complaints procedure, follow its instructions and be sure to escalate your complaint through the company's official process if you wish to take the matter further.
Be sure to keep a copy of all documents you send to the company, such as bills and contracts, and a note of when you sent them.
Some companies, especially within the personal finance sector, have a set a time limit to resolve most complaints.
After this point, if you're still unhappy with the outcome, you may wish to refer your problem to the relevant ombudsman or use an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme.
Companies within certain sectors are required to offer an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) service – for instance, telecommunications companies.
In some other sectors, there are mediation and arbitration schemes, especially if a company is part of a trade association – for example, travel companies or builders.
ADR schemes can help both parties to find an amicable solution, as well as provide independent arbitration to adjudicate on a dispute.
The decision of an arbitrator is binding on both parties. If you’re unhappy with the decision, you will not be able to take the matter to court afterwards, or use an ombudsman service.
Ombudsmen are a form of ADR. Before you go to an ombudsman, you usually need to have reached a position of deadlock with the company.
This happens when you’ve been through a company’s official complaints procedure, and come to a point where the company believes that it can do nothing more to rectify the situation.
Ombudsmen can act as independent referees, looking at both sides of the dispute in order to offer a solution.
All ombudsmen services have slightly different conditions regarding timing.
Some may require you to give the company more time to resolve the issue than others, and there are limits as to how old a complaint can be for an ombudsman to look at it.
The main public or government schemes that may be able to help if you wish to complain about a company are:
Remember, contacting an ombudsman is a last resort, so do all you can to rectify the situation with the company first.
You can use the as a final solution if you feel that a company has breached its contract. Before you use the small claims court, you'll need to demonstrate that you have tried all other routes to seek redress.
The total amount of money you can claim in the small claims court in England and Wales is £10,000, in Scotland it's £5,000 and Northern Ireland it's £3,000.