How to Complain

This section provides you with tips on how to complain effectively. If you have a problem with something you have bought (either goods or services), the first step is to go back to the person selling the goods or providing the service and complain.

Most traders want the goodwill of their customers and will sort the problem out. Some traders may be more difficult to deal with. Use the information on this page to help you resolve your problem.

If your problem is with an overseas internet retailer, see our page on internet shopping.

This section also contains links to information on the different Disputes Tribunals (for goods and service problems, and the specific Tribunal for motor vehicle purchases).

How to complain effectively

  1. Collect anything in writing that can help prove your case eg, a receipt which proves the goods were bought from that shop on a certain date, or a quote for a service.

  2. Decide what the problem is and check out your rights. Check in the Consumer Info section on such topics as Consumer Guarantees Act or Fair Trading Act to find out your rights when things go wrong.

  3. List the facts about the complaint eg, the date, time, anything the trader or an assistant said about the goods or service.

  4. If the goods were a gift - under the Consumer Guarantees Act if you have been given a gift that turns out to be faulty then the trader must deal with you rather than the person who bought the gift. The trader must also deal with you if you are using an exchange card for an unwanted gift. But the trader can insist on only dealing with the person who bought the gift in any other situation. Ask the person who gave you the gift if they are willing to complain for you. The trader may want to see the receipt.

  5. Decide what you will say and rehearse it

  6. Ask a friend to come with you for support

  7. Next, visit the trader to discuss your complaint.

Visiting the trader to complain

  • Be polite, but firm and clear. Some traders have a policy of refunding your money and the sales assistant may sort the problem out straight away.

  • If you have no success with the assistant ask to speak to the manager or owner of the business. Don' be put off by an assistant who won't let you speak to their supervisor or manager.

  • Explain the problem - eg,"I bought this pair of shoes here two weeks ago and now the strap has broken".

  • Tell the trader what you want done about the problem - eg, "If you can do the job within two weeks I want the strap neatly repaired. Otherwise I want my money back please".

  • Don' get into arguments about whose fault the problem is. Don't lose your temper.

  • Don' let the trader say the goods must go back to the manufacturer. The trader must get the problem fixed.

  • Keep repeating what is wrong with the goods or service and what you want done about it.