How to complain

Too many people don't complain because they feel embarrassed or can't be bothered, but you shouldn't let firms rip you off or get away with poor service. Find out how to make a successful complaint with Moneywise TV's easy guide.

Recently, we asked you about complaining, and our poll found that just one in five of us will always complain about poor customer service and standards.
You may not want to make a scene in public or think there's no point taking on corporate giants. But if you don't complain there's no incentive for firms to improve and you may lose the opportunity to claim cash as recompense.
Whether you're complaining to an insurance company, a local restaurant or high street store it pays to know your rights.
For shopping-related complaints familiarise yourself with the Sale of Goods Act – which covers complaints regarding repairs and refunds. For service complaints – about tradesmen or a restaurant for example – get to grips with the Supply of Goods and Services Act. Direct Gov offers simple explanations.
If you're not happy with a financial service read the small print. You may not be impressed that your motor cover doesn't pay out on chipped windscreens but if it's stipulated in the small print you won't stand a chance.
When you're sure of your rights make your complaint to the individual or company concerned. If you can't complain in person, get on the phone. State your grievance but stay calm, polite and don't get angry.  If you don't get the response you want ask to speak to a manager or see if there's a formal complaints procedure.
Take a note of who you spoke to, the time and the date. Companies record calls and you can too – iPhone users can download the iPhone recorder app, alternatively you can try web-based services like Simply dial in your account number and pin before making your call and it will be recorded for you.
If this doesn't work – or you're liable to get angry – write a letter. This can also help if you have evidence to support your claim. Be brief, to the point and set out the facts in a clear and logical manner.

Find out to whom to address the letter to and market it 'complaint'. Give the company reasonable time to respond such as 14 days. Take a copy of your letter and any additional evidence before posting.
Don't let companies fob you off if your complaint isn't resolved - you may need to follow up calls and letters.
As a last resort many industries – including financial services, and estate agents - have ombudsmen that can look into complaints for you free of charge. For simple disputes, involving sums less than £5,000 you can use the small claims court.

Legal action is expensive so should only be pursued once every avenue is exhausted. However in some cases you may find that simply mentioning solicitors is enough to chivvy along your complaint.