Making complaints about retailers

Hannah Jolliffe / 30 April 2020

Not all retail experiences are positive, but who can you turn to when something goes wrong? Find out what to do it if you have a complaint about a retailer.



Who can you complain to about retail disputes?

If you have a dispute with a retailer and you aren’t satisfied with how the company has dealt with it, you can take your complaint to RetailADR. This was formerly called The Retail Ombudsman, but its name changed in 2017.

This is a free service for consumers, but it can only be used if you have already made a complaint through the retailer’s own complaints procedure.

RetailADR only deals with unresolved complaints, so once you have made your complaint you will need to have either:

  • Received a ‘deadlock letter’, which is a final written response from the company, or:
  • Given the business/company eight weeks to respond to your dispute.

What kind of complaints can be handled?

RetailADR can deal with most disputes between consumers and traders including:

  • Returning goods
  • Faulty goods
  • Missing parts
  • Delivery
  • Customer service
  • Pricing
  • Misrepresentation
  • Product description

Be aware that there are some issues that they can’t deal with. These include:

  • Financial institutions (such as banks and building societies)
  • Vehicle sales and servicing
  • Estate/letting agents
  • Utility providers (water, gas, electricity)
  • Phone service providers
  • Solicitors
  • Other professional providers

Which companies are covered?

The scheme can take complaints about a range of companies selling goods or services to individuals, including high street and online shops, gyms, furniture outlets and hotels.

There is a wide range of companies listed on the RetailADR website which have signed up to the scheme. Search to see if the company you’re complaining about is listed. If it isn’t, you can look on the Consumer Arbitration website to see if they subscribe to that scheme or contact the RetailADR initial assessment team on 0203 540 8063.

Alternative schemes are also available for aviation, utilities and communications providers.

How does the complaint process work?

The first step is an initial assessment, where your complaint is reviewed to see if it can be accepted. If it can’t be accepted, you will be notified within three weeks.

If it is accepted it will be passed to the retailer, which must confirm if it wishes to defend or settle the complaint within 28 days. Any settlements (such as compensation being paid) must then be completed within the following 28 days.

In instances where the retailer choses to defend your complaint, you will have seven calendar days to provide any comment on the defence.

At this stage, the complaint is handled by the Adjudicator’s office, and a decision will be made in writing. This can take some time, so be prepared to wait up to 90 calendar days. In more complex cases, this may be extended further, but you will be notified if additional time is necessary.

How to start a complaint

You can file your complaint online or download a Paper Complaint Form, and there is also a Representative Authority Form if you want to authorise another person to act on your behalf.

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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.