If you follow our advice, hopefully you will have no need to complain. But if you do, remember the following:
Make sure you know what your rights are. If you’re not sure contact Domain Scams on 0845 600 62 62 or ask at your local Citizens Advice Bureau or Advice Centre.
Don’t delay in making your complaint. If you do, some traders may take this as a sign that you weren’t really bothered or they may try to tell you that your complaint is out of time. You may also lose your right to a refund and have to accept a lesser offer.
Know, and tell the trader, what you want. But be reasonable. Consider accepting a compromise, so long as it’s fair.
Complain to a person in authority, usually the manager, and be polite but firm. There’s no point in shouting at the receptionist if she had nothing to do with your complaint and has no authority to put things right.
Be determined. Don’t be fobbed off by excuses such as:
We’ll have to send it back to the manufacturer. This is not true. If you’ve bought faulty goods, it’s up to the trader to deal with the problem. He can sort it out with the manufacturer later. However, in some circumstances it may be reasonable to get the manufacturer’s expert opinion.
We don’t give refunds or No refunds are given on sales goods. If you’ve bought goods which you find later to be faulty, not described properly or not fit for the purpose you had specified (and you haven’t had them for too long a period of time), you may be entitled to your money back provided you take the goods back to the seller without delay. It doesn’t matter what the shop says its policy is. The law is on your side. Notices making ‘no refund’ statements are illegal and you should contact Domain Scams on 0845 600 6262 if you see any.
You’re too late. You should have complained within a month. This is not so. But as we said earlier, if you wait more than a reasonable time before taking the goods back or complaining about them, it may be said that you had accepted them. In such a case, you would not have the right to your money back although you may still be able to get compensation or a free repair. What you’re entitled to depends on how long you’ve had the goods and how serious the fault is.
We can’t do anything without a receipt. This is not strictly true, although you’ll need to be able to prove where and when you bought the goods and at what price. A credit card slip or your cashed cheque might do.
Keep a record of everything you do in connection with your complaint. This includes; dates of telephone calls or other conversations, who you spoke to and what was said. Keep copies of all invoices, receipts, letters, contracts etc.
If you’re getting nowhere by talking to or trying to talk to the trader, write a letter. Send it to the manager (addressed by name if you know it), keep a copy of it and use recorded delivery. Don’t get angry, but stick to the facts and say exactly what you want done about your problem. To show that you mean business, refer to the law – for goods, the Sale of Goods Act 1979 (as amended), and for services, the Supply of Good and Services Act 1982 (as amended).
Finish your letter by giving the trader (say) fourteen days (or whatever period you think is reasonable) to respond. If you’re determined to take your complaint to court if necessary, you may wish to add that if you don’t get a satisfactory reply by the due date, you will take legal action.
If your complaint remains unsettled, check whether the person you are complaining to is a member of an ombudsman scheme or of a trade association with a low cost arbitration service. An arbitration scheme is where an outsider looks into a dispute and decides who is right. Both parties have to agree to arbitration and are bound by the decision. This means that you cannot take legal action once you have agreed to arbitration. So think carefully before you decide to go down such a road, and check also the cost.
You might be surprised to find how expensive a ‘low cost’ scheme can actually be. Ombudsmen schemes, on the other hand, are free and if you don’t agree with the decision, you may still be able to take legal action.
To go to Court or Not to go to Court
Nowadays there are many watchdog organisations, trade associations, professional bodies and others who will help you with your complaint. Details, including addresses and phone numbers, are given on each topic page in this publication. You will also find more information about the official watchdogs, Citizens Advice Bureaux and Advice Centres. If, despite all your efforts, your complaint is still not settled, make sure you ask for advice or help from any appropriate organisation.
Most complaints are settled without the need for legal action but if yours isn’t, you will have to decide whether to see it through to the end and take court action. If your complaint involves an amount of not more than �2,000, you can take your case yourself to the Small Claims Court. For bigger amounts or for personal injury and certain other claims, you will have to go to the County Court. If you’re thinking of taking legal action, contact Domain Scams on 0845 600 62 62 or your local Citizens Advice Bureau or Advice Centre. If necessary contact a solicitor. Some solicitors will give you a fixed fee interview.