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What Is a Consumer Complaint?

A consumer complaint is a communication sent from a consumer to a manufacturer, retailer, or seller of consumer products. This usually takes the form of a written letter. Consumer protection complaints can range from very informal comments about the product, to more serious discussions of the company’s practices as a whole (especially if many consumers are involved).

Consumer complaints are usually informal complaints that directly sent to a company or public sector provider asking the company to resolve any issues that the consumer had a problem with. Most consumers resolve all their issues by these informal complaints.

What Should Be Included In a Consumer Complaint?

When filing a consumer complaint, it is necessary to include important information so that your issue or complaint may be thoroughly understood. A complaint should include:

  • The name and type of the product(s) involved
  • Where you purchased the product
  • How the product is defective or dangerous
  • Whether or not you have a consumer contract for the product
  • What types of injuries, losses, or legal issues the product has caused
  • How you expect the situation to be remedied
  • Information regarding your consumer warranty rights 
  • Any other concerns that come to your attention

How Do I File a Consumer Complaint?

Filing a consumer complaint can usually be done directly with the company itself. 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.

To report a consumer complaint reporting fraud, identity theft, or an unfair business practice, the more information you can provide about the situation, the more useful your complaint will be. If possible, your complain should be filed including the following:

  • Your contact information, address, phone number, email
  • The name of the company or business involved
  • Details about the transaction, amount you paid, how you paid, the date

Here are several options you may do before you file a official complaint:

  1. As soon as possible, contact the business and explain the problem and the outcome you want. In many ways a simple phone call will work.
  2. Provide a proof of purchase and discuss whether it is a minor problem or major problem
  3. Contact the ACCC or another third party and seek assistance or consider getting independent legal action
  4. Take your complaint to the small claims court or tribunal

What If a Consumer Complaint Is Not Enough?

Most manufacturers would want to settle a complaint by offering a refund, exchange, or store credit for the item. However, if the product has caused serious injury or a serious financial loss to you or your company, it may be necessary to file a lawsuit. Many legal issues may be involved, such as a breach of contract, personal injury damages, and health and safety violations. Thus, a consumer complaint lawsuit can sometimes be a complicated proceeding.

In most cases, the manufacturer or other liable parties will be required to issue a damages award to reimburse the victim for losses. Alternatively, the judge may order an investigation into the company’s practices to ensure that they follow business standards in the future.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help Filing a Consumer Complaint?

Filing a consumer complaint can sometimes involve very technical aspects of the law, even for seemingly "minor" issues. You may wish to hire a lawyer if you need help filing a consumer complaint in your state. An experienced attorney in your area can review your claim to ensure that it is clear and within the bounds of state and federal requirements. Also, your lawyer can represent you in court if you need assistance with a lawsuit.

Photo of page author Kourosh Akhbari

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 11-07-2017 11:27 PM PST

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