aAs a consumer, you may have purchased something that does not perform its intended function. Worn twice and the seams are frayed. Defective appliance. Flight delayed multiple times and missed vacation. Unexplained charges for telephone charges.
It has happened to all of us, and for most of us, the thought of filing a complaint also causes anxiety. It’s as easy as This results in a quick response and mandated resolution. communication) can get you half-hearted apologies and little compensation.
I once spent 4 months trying to contact an airline to explain that they didn’t understand their terms and conditions and didn’t give me the rights they were given to me in the first place . After hours of on hold with phone calls, live chats, DMs on three different social media platforms, multiple email chains, and fruitless contacts with various consumer advocates and regulators, I finally found the airline. I reached out to the appropriate people at the company. Said he wasn’t going to compensate me for my loss. But do you want mileage points for my troubles (not enough to take me anywhere)?
Reluctantly, I took the point and crouched down with my tail between my legs. My complaint turned into an emotionally draining vortex of time with no satisfying results. So is it really worth filing a consumer complaint?
So says Gerard Brody, CEO of the Consumer Action Law Centre. “People should feel empowered to file complaints when they have complaints,” he says. “Most complaints not only offer remedies, but companies that manage complaints properly also investigate the root cause of complaints and prevent future complaints from occurring. That’s it.
“If the company has resolved the issue, filing a complaint can reduce the potential for distress related to future complaints.”
So what should you do first if you want to make a complaint? Start by contacting the company directly, says Brody. “Many companies, such as those in the energy, water and telecommunications sectors, are specifically regulated to have internal dispute resolution systems and are required to respond within specific timeframes and provide specific information and explanations. “
Other types of products and services, such as general retail, do not have the same kind of regulation that requires companies to have an internal complaints mechanism. But Brody says it’s worth contacting the company to voice your concerns and “directly and clearly tell them what outcome you want.”
In order to make the complaints process as efficient and effective as possible, Brody suggests that you have all the information related to your complaint ready. She collects evidence: receipts, dates, contracts, order numbers, photos.
Hopefully, hearing your complaint, the business will repent, compensate you for your loss, and your journey ends there. It does not provide predictable results. That’s when you might get into a bit of a fight and wonder if the complaint is really worth the trouble.
If complaining yourself doesn’t work, depending on the sector, there are disputes bodies that can help you. We have a lot,” says Brody. “The ombudsman is free and independent and can make decisions that bind business.”
The Ombudsman you contact will require all information previously collected by you, will provide the information upon request, and will not do more than respond to periodic communications as the case progresses. This is a simple and easy process worth doing if you are having trouble filing a complaint in one of the sectors involved. process.
“Unfortunately, some sectors are more difficult to file a complaint than others,” says Brody.
There is generally no ombudsman in retail and air travel, making the process of escalating complaints more cumbersome for subsequent consumers. “In these areas, you can file a complaint with your state or territory’s department of consumer affairs and they may be able to help,” Brody says.
If the local consumer affairs department can’t help, the next step is to go to civil court, which Brody says can be a “long and expensive process.”
“Airline complaints are especially difficult because it is difficult to find where to complain and there is no response to complaints. there is.”
In a perfect world, all sectors would have formal dispute resolution schemes, and Brody said he would like to see more accessible ombudsman schemes in sectors that don’t exist today.
Given how difficult and complicated complaints handling can be when a company does not want to admit their mistakes, and the lack of free alternatives to managing complaints like an ombudsman scheme, this No one will blame you for opting out at any point. Pursuing a complaint can be a time consuming, stressful and rewarding process. For minor grievances, giving up may be the best option for preserving your mental and emotional health.
However, if you choose to file a complaint and all you get is the number of mileage points, rest assured that you did the right thing.
Even if the business has wronged you, there is some satisfaction in being a fly in the ointment (because complaints, especially persistent complaints, are also a waste of resources for the business). So if you get angry, that’s fine. If you can get what you owe and get the business to rethink its risky practices or improve its customer service and product offerings in the meantime, even better.
Kat George is an author and public policy expert. Her work focuses on access and inclusion, consumers and human rights, regulation and new technologies. She is a non-executive director of Choice and Hope Street Youth and Family Services.All views expressed in her writing are her own