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Our Advice Sheets

Writing an effective letter of complaint

If you have a problem with faulty goods or a poor service, which you have not been able to resolve by complaining in person or by telephone, you should put your complaint in writing.

To achieve the best possible result, consider the following points when writing your letter or email:

  • always make sure you write to the person who has authority to deal with your complaint - it may be advisable to contact the trader and ask for the senior manager’s name and job title
  • check to make sure you are using the correct address - if you write directly to a branch, you can also send a copy of the letter to the head office
  • many traders have a complaints procedure - if this is the case, follow it to avoid unnecessary delays
  • if you bought goods or services online, check the trader's web page for a dedicated email address to use for complaints or enquiries as an alternative to writing a letter - always store a copy of the email as you may need it in the future - if you receive an email acknowledgement of your complaint, keep it - if you are still unable to resolve the issue by email you should put your complaint in writing 
  • you should always quote any relevant order numbers, reference numbers and invoice numbers in your letter to make it easier for the trader to connect your complaint to the transaction
  • be specific and stick to the point - genuine points of concern may be 'lost' in a long, rambling letter - quote dates of events and all the relevant circumstances surrounding your complaint
  • always ensure your letter is legible - seek help if necessary
  • seek advice on your legal rights by contacting the Citizens Advice consumer service - it may be useful to inform the trader in your letter that you have sought legal advice
  • if possible  quote the law you are making your claim under and make it clear what this law entitles you to
  • be clear about what you want the trader to do to resolve your complaint
  • get evidence such as independent reports, photographs etc. to support your claim and enclose copies (not the originals) with your letter or send them as attachments with your email
  • if possible send copies to all known addresses for the trader and if the trader has a head office then send a copy there as well
  • include copies (not the originals) of any supporting documentation such as the proof of purchase, order forms, invoices etc - do not send copies of bank/credit card statements due to the risk of identity theft - if you have to do this, then ensure ALL sensitive information is covered up
  • quote a reasonable time for the trader to respond to you (e.g. 10 working days)
  • keep a copy of your letters and send them by recorded delivery, this will help to prove the fact the letter was sent, and received - if you receive a 'read receipt' for your emailed complaint, store it for future reference
  • act quickly - delaying can sometimes affect what you are entitled to
  • be persistent and write a reminder letter or email if you do not get a reply to your first one
  • copies of letters, emails and other documents are useful evidence if you refer your complaint to a trade association or regulatory body or if you take action in the small claims court
  • if at any stage you need to check the wording of legislation or your legal entitlements then contact the Citizens Advice consumer service for further assistance

Template letters
For additional help, seek guidance from the consumer leaflets and use the template letters as below (in both Word and pdf format):

Faulty goods - Repair or replacement - Word 27KB
Refund for faulty goods - Word 27KB
Returning goods bought at a distance - Word 22KB
Making time of the essence for delivery of goods - Word 26KB
Building work delays - Word 26KB
Building work repairs - Word 32KB
Repairs to faulty double glazing - Word 29KB
Faulty carpet/flooring - Word 27KB
Repairs as a result of poor service - Word 27KB
Holiday complaint - Word 28KB
Unsatisfactory car repairs - Word 32KB
Repairs to faulty car - Word 33KB
Refund for faulty car - Word 23KB
Refund for faulty car bought on hire purchase - Word 32KB
Cancelling a distance contract for a mobile phone mis-sold by retailer - Word 31KB
Communications/media services - Lack of reception - Word 24KB
Asking trader to consider a joint expert report - Word 23KB
Holding a finance company equally liable in a dispute with a trader - Word 32KB
Letter before court action - Word 30KB

Faulty goods - Repair or replacement - PDF 49KB
Refund for faulty goods - PDF 49KB
Returning goods bought at a distance - PDF 80KB
Making time of the essence for delivery of goods - PDF 48KB
Building work delays - PDF 87KB
Building work repairs - PDF 73KB
Repairs to faulty double glazing - PDF 87KB
Faulty carpet/flooring - PDF 85KB
Repairs as a result of poor service - PDF 66KB
Holiday complaint - PDF 70KB
Unsatisfactory car repairs - PDF 75KB
Repairs to faulty car - PDF 75KB
Refund for faulty car - PDF 88KB
Refund for faulty car bought on hire purchase - PDF 75KB
Cancelling a distance contract for a mobile phone mis-sold by retailer - PDF 66KB
Communications/media services - Lack of reception - PDF 43KB
Asking trader to consider a joint expert report - PDF 84KB
Holding a finance company equally liable in a dispute with a trader - PDF 51KB
Letter before court action - PDF 46KB

Please note
This leaflet is not an authoritative interpretation of the law and is intended only for guidance. Any legislation referred to, while still current, may have been amended from the form in which it was originally enacted.

For further information please contact the Citizens Advice consumer service, which provides free, confidential and impartial advice on consumer issues. Visit www.adviceguide.org.uk or call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 040506.

Last reviewed/updated: February 2013

 

 

 

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This page was last edited on 21/07/14