Rebecca Garland
Rebecca Garland
Business and Education Expert
Download a Complaint Letter Template

Bought something new and realized it wasn’t what you expected? Called up customer service and hung up more frustrated than when the call began? Consumer issues with companies happen, but you don’t have to stay unhappy. 

Most companies want their customers happy – it’s how they build their reputation. Companies tend to take consumer complaints very seriously. That means you just need to take the right steps to help the company make things right again.

Key Insights

  • To avoid consumer issues, always review written documents and contracts before signing.
  • Read online reviews before buying or working with a company to know what to expect.
  • When problems arise, refer to your documents and reviews to know best how to resolve the issue. 

Understand Your Consumer Rights

Before making any complaints or threatening legal action, learn your consumer rights. What rights do consumers have when it comes to faulty products or poor service? Do you even have grounds to stand on when you lodge customer complaints? 

The most important elements of consumer rights protection include the following essential elements. 

  • Customers have a right to safety. Customers should be able to trust that the items they buy are not going to harm them when used for their intended purpose.
  • Customers have the right to make informed decisions. There are laws against blatant lies and deception in advertising, but customers bear the responsibility to do their own research about what is absolutely true and what might just sound true when worded a certain way. Reading about other customer experiences is a good way to determine this information. 
  • Customers have a right to choices. Monopolies and coercion are illegal (to certain degrees) in the United States, so customers can choose what and when they make purchases. Again, consumer insights can be a powerful means of determining your individual best choice. 
  • Customers have a right to be heard. Companies and the government cannot silence you about your experiences, although there are laws against false allegations or defamation. 

Knowing your rights is an important part of customer issue resolution. 

How to complain effectively?

Your Main Steps to Complain

Millions of customer service complaints are made annually. Specifically, in 2022, approximately 5.15 million consumer complaints were registered with the Federal Trade Commission in the US. You don’t want to be one of the frustrated masses, however. You want to be heard and have your issue resolved. Here’s how to file a complaint against a company effectively. 

Document the issue

Consider yourself the investigator in your own complaint and build a case. Gather all of the evidence of the issue, including emails, documents, contracts, images, the offending item, dates, times, and names. The more records you have in writing, the better the odds of satisfactorily resolving customer complaints you make. 

Contact the company

When you have your documentation ready, contact the company. Making contact successfully can include several elements:

  • Find the correct contact information. Use the company’s website to find the best phone number to call or use the online chat or email features if they are available. Calling might give you an opportunity to have a conversation with a person, but email and chat will provide a written document with time stamps and dates, which can also be useful. Perhaps call first, and then try email or chat for additional documentation if you aren’t able to find resolution in a conversation. 
  • Document the conversation. When you contact the company – every time you contact them – write down important details about who you spoke with, what time it was, what day it was and what was said in the conversation. Written communication will document the complaint process for you, but you can document phone calls. 
  • Call for solutions, not complaints. You may feel angry, but try to calm down before calling the company. Remember that you are contacting the company to give them an opportunity to do right by you and offer customer service solutions before anything escalates. If you contact customer service in a calm and professional way looking to collaborate on finding a solution, the customer service agent you speak to will probably be relieved and more willing to help. If you call in a rage, ready to attack, the customer service representative will, by human nature, start the conversation in a defensive mode, which isn’t productive. 
  • Don’t be afraid to escalate the issue. Sometimes, the trick in knowing how to resolve the consumer issue is simply knowing who to talk to. If the first person you speak with can’t help you, ask politely to speak to their supervisor. If that person can’t help, escalate further and ask for the next level of contact or the correct address to send a letter through certified mail. The higher up the proverbial food chain you go, the more likely you are to find a solution to an issue. 

Write a complaint letter or email

If the first rounds of conversation with customer service aren’t working, it may be time to write a formal letter. A formal complaint letter should be clear and brief and include all the relevant information. When possible, you should attach photocopies (never the originals) of warranties, contracts, and other supporting documents to your letter.

It is strongly encouraged to send your letter through certified mail so that there is a record of when it was sent and when it was received. You can also send the letter through email, which will timestamp the letter but may not have the same gravitas.

download complaint letter template

Leave an online review

Up to this point, your conversation has been a private one with the company while you provided them a chance to make things right. But if things still aren’t resolved, share your story with others by leaving a review. Companies monitor many complaint platforms as part of their marketing and customer service strategy, and effective customer reviews can spur companies into action to avoid negative publicity. 

How to resolve your consumer issue

Steps to Take if The Company Fails to Solve Your Issue

Sometimes, despite all your efforts (and sometimes the efforts of friendly customer service professionals), things still aren’t resolved. When that happens, it may be time to take additional steps.

Seek publicity

In some cases, simply making the issue public can bring attention to the issue and help you resolve your complaint. Online review boards, social media, and even local news organizations can bring publicity and attention to the issues you're facing with a particular company. Companies are often quick to do damage control – and resolve issues quickly – to avoid being shamed in the public eye.

Join the PissedConsumer Club

The PissedConsumer Club is a community where real consumers share their experiences and work to resolve issues. When you join the PissedConsumer Club, you’ll have access to helpful resources, such as smart consumer tips and effective complaint letter templates, an opportunity to collaborate with others who have had similar experiences, and possibilities of leveraging those connections for collective consumer power. You may also turn to experts for personalized consultations.

Contact Official Authorities 

If you feel the need to involve government agencies and authorities, you do have options and support. You might contact:

These offices provide legal oversight to businesses working in the country or your individual state. You have additional options for agencies to contact as well for assistance: 

  • Consumer action hotlines that might be offered by local media or legal offices can draw attention to your issue.
  • Trade associations might be an avenue to explore if you are working with a particular industry or a corresponding trade organization. 
  • Insurance companies may be powerful advocates if a product caused enough harm to involve them in your complaint. 

Explore legal options 

Consulting with an attorney might be a powerful step in the complaint process. Speak with a lawyer to see what legal options may exist in your unique situation. You may discover grounds for a class action lawsuit or at least have an advocate on your site to send additional letters and even sue or force a settlement. Proceed with caution when you explore legal avenues, however, as your own costs can quickly escalate, and there is no guarantee of legal success or payout to offset your own costs. 

Make Complaints Count

In a perfect world, everything we buy works just as we want it to. We have time to research our purchases, check out reviews, and buy just what we need. But in the real world, things break, we wind up with bum deals, and sometimes companies don’t try to resolve consumer issues. 

That’s why it’s important to know how to advocate for yourself, work with companies to resolve issues, and share your experiences with others to provide guidance. Had a recent issue with a company? Why not let others know and leave a review or comment below?


Legal disclaimers:

  1. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide any legal, medical, accounting, investment or any other professional advice as individual cases may vary and should be discussed with a corresponding expert and/or an attorney.
  2. All or some image copyright belongs to the original owner(s). No copyright infringement intended.

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