How to complain like an expert

Harriet Meyer / 20 January 2016 ( 13 February 2017 )

Make getting a refund or exchange simple with eight tips for complaining successfully.



When you need to complain, whether for shoddy service or faulty goods, you want to do so effectively.

While it can be tempting to simply let off steam, some methodical thought out steps are more likely to get you a satisfactory resolution.

Here are the eight steps you should take:

1. Act quickly

If you delay, you may have difficulty proving your case. It’ll also be hard to fight for a refund. 

Under the Consumer Rights Act you have 30 days to request a refund if something is faulty, and should get a full refund.

2. Know your rights

You should know your statutory rights for shopping, which are the rights you have by law that a shop can’t dispute. 

Goods must be of satisfactory quality, and fit for purpose, for starters. 

Although remember that you may have trouble rejecting goods and fewer rights after 30 days. After that, the onus may be on you to prove the item was faulty when you bought it.

Find out more about recent changes to the consumer rights protection rules

3. Use bullet points to summarise

If it’s a complaint you’re making by letter remember that customer services will be sorting through a big pile. 

Make it simple to sort your gripe by providing all the necessary information, in bullet form.

4. Provide evidence

This may be photographs of a faulty sofa, or hairs in your soup. Whatever the complaint, evidence in whatever form possible is a bonus and will add to your case for compensation.

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5. Know what you want

You should be clear on what you want. Decide whether you would like an exchange, compensation, or your money back. 

You may not be entitled to your request, but at least you’re being clear.

6. Keep a copy of everything you send

Make a file on your computer to store a copy of any letters you send, and print off a copy to keep separately. If you fail to get a satisfactory resolution, these documents could come in handy.

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7. Get the name of everyone you speak to

You may find yourself speaking to a multitude of people to sort out a simple problem, so it’s worth keeping track. If you’re lucky, you may get one name and can ask to solely deal with this person.

Do you use social media? Read Paul Lewis' guide to using Twitter to get your complaint heard

8. Avoid using the phone if possible

Or at least, write a letter too. There may be no record of what is said otherwise. Or you might find the person on the other end has a knack of talking you round and accepting a pitiful sum in compensation. 

For more useful tips and information, browse our money articles

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.