Consumer complaints, are communications sent from a consumer to a company, manufacturer, retailer, or seller of consumer products. They communicate a problem with a product or service to the appropriate party. They are also sometimes referred to as a customer complaint. 

Consumer protection complaints can range from very informal comments about the product, to more serious complaints involving the company’s practices as a whole.

Often, consumer complaints sent directly to a company, accompanied with documentation or evidence of a problem or defect of a product or service, are resolved by the company itself. However, sometimes a company refuses to acknowledge a consumer’s informal complaint, even after documentation or evidence of a defect or problem is shown. 

What Should be Included in a Consumer Complaint?

Your local state’s Office of the Attorney General (“OAG”) will provide you with a list of all the important details and information that should be included in a consumer complaint. The more details that you are able to provide to the Office of the Attorney General, the faster they will be able to process and handle your consumer complaint. 

The details and information that should be present in a consumer complaint, include:

  • The name of the business or individual you are filing a complaint against;
  • The business or individual’s full address, including the zip code;
  • A detailed description of your complaint, accompanied with any supporting documents you may have;
  • Explanation of how you came into contact with the cited business or individual;
  • The transaction dates and amounts of money spent;
  • Information regarding any consumer contract that was formed or warranty that was provided to you, if appropriate, along with payment details; and
  • Documentation of your attempts to resolve the dispute, including the dates and names of the people you spoke with. 

Providing as much of the above mentioned information as possible will help to resolve your complaint as quickly as possible. This is because the Office of the Attorney General will not have to investigate as much into the complaint. 

How do I File a Consumer Complaint?

As mentioned above, filing a consumer complaint is usually done by communicating directly with the company itself. Evidence of communication with the company itself, and of their refusal to resolve your complaints, will strengthen your case. 

However, if there is a public policy or public safety issue involved, you can sometimes file a complaint with a city or state regulating agency, such as a business bureau or health and safety department. 

For example, if your family all ate at a restaurant and all are showing signs of food poisoning, you may contact the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”), Federal Department of Health and Human Services (“DHHS”), or your local state agency to report the public safety issue immediately, without first contacting the company. 

If you are reporting a consumer complaint involving fraudulent business activity, identity theft, or an unfair business practice, you should file a complaint with the Office of the Attorney General. Complaints involving the consumer protection division of the OAG are public record. 

When you file your complaint with the OAG, the Consumer Protection Division will review it, and use the consumer complaints to monitor trends and take action when appropriate and in the public interest. However, they will not file any civil lawsuits on your behalf. Once again, the more information you can provide about the situation, the more useful your complaint will be. Your complaint should include as much of the information listed above as possible. 

As noted above, the OAG will not file a civil lawsuit on your behalf, even if you submit documentation of medical or other damages as a result of the business or individual’s activity. Thus, if you may wish to file a civil lawsuit against the individual or business in order to recover for the harm you suffered. The court in which you may file your lawsuit depends on a variety of factors, such as the type of harm you suffered, as well as the amount of damages you are seeking. 

What if a Consumer Complaint is Not Enough?

Most manufacturers, retailers, or companies, want to settle any consumer complaints internally by offering a refund, exchange, or store credit for the item. However, if you have informally or formally communicated with a company, and they have ignored your complaints, or if their product(s) have caused serious injuries or financial losses to your, it may be necessary to file a civil lawsuit against them. 

Often for lawsuits involving consumer complaints, there are many legal issues that may be involved. These can include a breach of contract claim, personal injury damages, or other health and safety violations. Thus, a consumer complaint lawsuit can sometimes be a complicated proceeding, requiring the assistance of an attorney specialized in consumer complaint laws.

In most cases, the manufacturer or other liable parties will be required to issue a damages award to reimburse the victim for losses. Further, the court may order an investigation into the company’s practices to ensure that they follow business standards in the future. Importantly, you do not have to wait to file a civil suit against the manufacturer or company. However, the court may dismiss your case if there is no evidence of you trying to resolve the issue first yourself. Thus, before filing a civil lawsuit, you should communicate and document your complaint to the company and their response, if any. 

What Types of Remedies are Available in a Consumer Complaint?

There are many remedies that might be available when filing a consumer complaint. The most common remedy is that the company or individual will offer to make the situation right by offering a refund, exchange, or otherwise fulfilling their obligations. 

However, if they do not, and you have filed a civil suit, a court may award you compensatory damages, or other damages in order to make you whole again. Further, as noted above, the court may order an investigation into the company’s practices, or other injunctive relief

Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help Filing a Consumer Complaint?

As can be seen, filing a consumer complaint can sometimes involve many different aspects of the law, especially when a company ignores your complaint. Therefore, if you find yourself in a situation where you have been injured by a company, you should immediately seek out a knowledgeable and well qualified business lawyer in your area.

Your attorney can assist you in filing your complaint with both the state and the court. They can also help review your claim, file your claim, and represent you in court, if necessary.