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Consumer Issues - How to Complain

Friday, 6 February 2009

If you have a complaint about the goods or service you've bought, you should make the trader aware of this as soon as you can. Your complaint is most likely to be resolved it you complain effectively so here's how to do it.

1. Know your rights
To complain effectively you will need to know if you have grounds for a complaint. Find out what your rights are first so that you are sure the retailer / service provider is obliged to provide a remedy. For example, a shop is not obliged to take back a perfect but unwanted good, unless purchased online. Or if you break something yourself you are not entitled to a remedy. Find out what your rights are by contacting the National Consumer Agency www.consumerconnect.ie.

2. Know what you want
Once you know what your entitlements are you will be able to decide what you want. For example, is it a repair, replacement or refund or are you looking for compensation for damaged luggage.

3. Act quickly
Also act promptly when something goes wrong, otherwise you run the risk of the being deemed to have accepted a faulty product for example. Also, under some consumer law there are time limits. For example you must write your letter of complaint about a package holiday within 28 days, or about damaged luggage within 7 days and delayed luggage within 21 days.

4. Make the complaint
Depending on the circumstances, it may be best to make your complaint first either face to face or over the phone. Check if the company has an internal complaints procedure or a customer service department that deals with complaints or talk to the manager if it's a smaller business. Always give the business the opportunity to put things right: the majority of complaints should be resolved at this stage. Just in case, keep a record of who you have spoken to and when.

5. Be firm but polite.
Never get aggressive, no matter what the situation is. Be polite yet firm. If you know what your entitlements are then that knowledge means you can negotiate with the company on strong terms. Always focus on the action you want them to take rather than your disappointment. You will only get emotional and so less clear headed and rational, so focus on the positive of the action you want them to take. Do be determined however. If you know you are right then don't back down.

6. Making a formal complaint
If making a verbal complaint hasn't work, it's time for a letter. Be clear and concise in your letter. Don't give to much detail or be rude about them or explain your feelings. You just need to include what happened and when and what you want to happen now. Include reference to people you have already spoken to in the company, copies of any previous correspondence, and a copy of your receipt / credit card statement or order confirmation.
7. What next
If none of the above has worked then you can take a small claims action against the trader / service provider for €15 and can claim up to €2000. For further information go to www.courts.ie. If your unresolved complaint is against a company based in another European country the European Consumer Centre can assist. www.eccireland.ie.

Tips when writing complaint letters:
. Write to the manager by name if you can.
. If you were also talking to a salesperson give their name.
. Be factual and get straight to the point. Don't add unnecessary detail.
. Include the history; description of what happened; your rights; what you want to happen; copy of proof of purchase; copy of any other relevant document.
. Do not use emotive terms or condemnation, such as, I am disappointed in you, you are all idiots, I am distraught etc.
. Find out what your consumer rights are and state them.
. Send your letter by registered post.

1. Sample letter: faulty product

Mary Manager
Shop
Main Street
Greentown

11th February 2009

Dear Ms Manager,
I bought [give a precise description of what you bought, including colour, model and price and stating when you bought it] in your shop in Greentown.

When I tried to use this item / I have now discovered that... [say what went wrong and what the product did not do, if it was not as described etc].
I went back to your shop and the shop assistant, Seamus Pleasant, said that complaints were dealt with by your department. OR Further to our telephone conversation on [date] I would like to put my complaint in writing to you.
I enclose [evidence of purchase i.e. a receipt or credit card statement and enclose a copy (not the original). You could also enclose a copy of a description or advert if that is relevant].
I would like you to [tell them exactly what you want i.e. repair, replacement, or refund].
I believe I am entitled to this under consumer law. [Name the legislation to show you know what you are talking about. This will make the letter stronger and is necessary especially if this is your second complaint or if talking to the manager has gotten you nowhere, for example].
I look forward to your reply within 14 days and hope this matter can be sorted out quickly. If I do not hear from you I will proceed to take my complaint to the small claims court.
Yours sincerely,
Annie Irish

2. Sample letter: Bad service

[Address]
[Date]
Dear [sir / madam/ manager's name],
On [date] you carried out / I subscribed to [describe service] at a cost of [name price paid].
This service was [say what went wrong i.e. the service was not carried out with skill or parts used were faulty, or you are not receiving a service subscription that you paid for].
I enclose [evidence of purchase i.e. a receipt or credit card statement and enclose a copy (not the original). You could also enclose a copy of a description or advert if that is relevant or order confirmation].
I would like you to [tell them exactly what you want i.e. repair, replacement, or refund].
I believe I am entitled to this under consumer law. [Name the legislation to show you know what you are talking about. This will make the letter stronger and is necessary especially if this is your second complaint or if talking to the manager has gotten you nowhere, for example].
I look forward to your reply within 14 days and hope this matter can be sorted out quickly. If I do not hear from you I will proceed to take my complaint to the small claims court.

3. Sample letter: To an airline

Customer Service
[Address]

[Date]

Dear sir / madam,

I am writing to you regarding [insert problem i.e. lost / damaged / delayed luggage / cancelled flight / delayed flight].

I was on / due to fly on [give flight number and departure and destination airport and date of travel].

Unfortunately, [explain what happened i.e. the flight was cancelled / delayed, your luggage was damaged, delayed or lost etc].

I would like [explain what you are looking for. Find out what you are entitled to first i.e. compensation for lost luggage or a re-imbursement for a cancelled flight ticket].

I belive I am enitled to this under consumer law [name legislation].

I look forward to hearing from you within a month and I hope this matter can be resolved.

Yours sincerely,
Janet Flyer


Tina Leonard
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