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Filing a Consumer Complaint

Find out what steps to take and who you should contact if you need to file a complaint against a company about a purchase.

Infographic: How to File a Consumer Complaint

Filing a consumer complaint may seem complicated, but it doesn't have to be. Use this graphic to learn the steps to take.

How to file a consumer complaint infographic

Steps to File a Complaint Against a Company

If you have problems with an item or service you purchased, you have the right to complain. Start your complaint with the seller or manufacturer. If they don't help, seek help from your local government or a consumer organization. Use these steps to get started.

1. Collect Supporting Documents

  • Gather your records: sales receipts, warranties, contracts, or work orders from the purchase.

  • Print out email messages or logs of any contact you've had with the seller about the purchase.

2. Contact the Seller

Use USA.gov's sample complaint letter to explain your problem. 

  • Send your complaint to a salesperson or customer service representative. You can find a company’s customer service contact information on their website. Look for links that say "contact us," "customer service," "about us," or "privacy statement."

  • Take your complaint to the management team if a salesperson didn't help,

3. Contact Third Parties If the Seller Doesn't Fix Your Problem

If the seller doesn't resolve the issue, a government office or a consumer organization may be able to help:

4. Seek Legal Help

If other options don't work:

Dispute Resolution Programs

Dispute resolution programs are ways to solve disagreements between buyers and sellers, without going to court. Some companies and industries offer programs to solve disputes. You can also contact your state's attorney general or consumer protection office, law school clinics, or the Better Business Bureau to find a dispute resolution program.

Mediation, arbitration, and conciliation are the three common types of dispute resolution. During mediation, both sides involved in the dispute meet with a neutral third party, a mediator, to create their own agreement jointly. In arbitration, the third party, an arbitrator, decides how to settle the problem. Conciliation is similar to arbitration; however, you and the other party meet with the conciliator separately (not a group meeting). Request a copy of the rules of any program before deciding to participate. You should ask questions like:

  • How much does the dispute resolution program cost you?
  • Are the decisions binding?
  • Are you still able to take legal action if you are not satisfied with the decision?
  • How is the mediator, arbitrator, conciliator, chosen for your case? 
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Last Updated: June 29, 2020

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