Before you go back to the store or website, learn about the company’s return policies and collect documents related to your purchase.
- Look for return policies, deadlines, customer service numbers and other important information on receipts, product packaging, warranties, or the seller’s website.
- Check deadlines. Many stores will not take returns or exchanges after a certain time, like 30 or 90 days. Promptly return your undamaged item to have the best chance of a refund, exchange, or store credit. You might have to contact the manufacturer to return a defective or damaged product after a seller’s return deadline.
- Collect key documents. Gather your receipts, warranties, canceled checks, credit card statements, invoices, contracts, or other documents. Make copies of documents to give the business and keep the originals. If you go to a store, bring any tags and original packaging you have.
Tell the business what happened. Give details about the problem, and about the resolution you want.
- Explain the problem. Is the product defective or damaged? Did you get poor service or repairs that didn’t fix the problem? Reputable businesses want to know about their customers’ problems so they can act and avoid future complaints.
- Be clear about what you want. Say if you want a full refund, an exchange, a store credit, a markdown on the item you bought, or a percentage discount on a future purchase. Explain why you want that result. Sellers are often more willing to offer a store credit than a refund. It’s less expensive for them and keeps you as a customer.
- Ask to speak with a manager. If a customer representative doesn’t offer the result you want, be calm, polite, and persistent. Ask for a manager or supervisor. A manager will likely have more flexibility and authority to resolve the issue. Explain the problem to each person you talk with and describe what you want them to do.
- Keep notes about what you did to solve the problem. List the people you talked to, the date of your conversation, and what they promised to do. If you chat online or send forms to customer service, save a copy of what you wrote, or take a picture of the screen before you exit, and note the date.
If you can’t resolve the problem by going back to the store or website, use this sample letter to write an effective complaint. When you write
Give your name, mailing address, and email address. Include your phone number too, if you want the business to contact you that way. Include your account number if you have an account with the business, and the related order or transaction number.
Give the basics. Describe the product or service you bought and important details of the transaction. Give the product’s name, its serial or model number, and the date and place you bought it or had it repaired or serviced.
Explain the problem. For example, say the product doesn’t work, you were billed incorrectly, something wasn’t disclosed clearly, or a product’s features were misrepresented.
Tell the business what you want. For example, say you want a refund, repair, exchange, or store credit.
Include copies of relevant documents , like receipts, repair orders, and warranties. Keep the originals.
Describe your next steps. Say how long you’ll wait for the business to answer. Give time for the business to act, and let it know you’ll report the matter to your state attorney general or state consumer protection office if you don’t hear by your deadline.
Make a copy of your letter to keep. Send your letter by certified mail and ask for a return receipt. If you send your complaint letter online, print the screen that shows your letter or take a screenshot of your letter before you click “submit.”
If you’re not satisfied with a business’s response to your complaint
Contact your state attorney general or state consumer protection office. These government agencies might mediate complaints, conduct investigations, and take other action against those who break consumer protection laws.
Contact your local Better Business Bureau The Better Business Bureau is made up of organizations supported by local businesses. Local Better Business Bureaus try to resolve customer complaints.
File a report with the FTC. The FTC doesn’t resolve individual complaints, but your report helps law enforcement detect patterns and might lead to an investigation. Tell your story at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
Visit USA.gov/complaints to get information about filing complaints about specific types of products, steps to filing a complaint with a seller or manufacturer, links to product recall information, and more.
Post an Online Review
If you can’t resolve the problem and feel the business has been unfair, write an online review. The Consumer Review Fairness Act protects your ability to share your honest opinions about a business’s products, services, or conduct, in any forum, including social media.
It’s illegal for companies to threaten or penalize you for posting honest reviews. Many companies check social media and might reply if they see you’re dissatisfied with their response to your complaint.
Many consumers and businesses use dispute resolution programs instead of going to court.
- In mediation , a neutral third party helps you and the other party try to resolve the problem. However, it's up to you and the other party to reach an agreement.
- In arbitration you and the other party might appear at hearings, present evidence, or question each other’s witnesses, although the setting is less formal than court. An arbitrator or panel makes a decision or award after you present your case. The decision might be legally binding.
Many dispute resolution programs are voluntary, so you decide whether to use them. But in some states, a court might order you to try mediation or arbitration. Some companies require you to use arbitration for disputes and give up your right to go to court. Check your contract or product packaging to see what a business requires.
Small claims courts can resolve many financial disputes. The dollar limits on claims vary by state, but some states set the limit as high as $25,000. The costs of using small claims courts is relatively low, the procedures are simple, and you usually don’t need a lawyer. Check with your local small claims court for information about how to file your lawsuit.
If all else fails, consider a lawsuit. You’ll be able to sue for damages or any other type of relief the court awards, including legal fees. A lawyer can advise you about your options.