Filing a consumer complaint may seem complicated, but it doesn't have to be. Use this graphic to learn the steps to take.
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:
File a complaint with your local consumer protection office or the state agency that regulates the company.
Notify the Better Business Bureau (BBB) in your area about your problem. The BBB tries to resolve your complaints against companies.
Some federal agencies accept complaints about companies, but may not resolve your problem. They use complaints to help them investigate fraud.
Contact econsumer.gov. if you are complaining about items you bought online, from a seller outside the U.S.
Some problems with sellers are the result of frauds and scams. If you believe that you have been the victim of fraud, file a complaint with the correct government agency. File telemarketing complaints with the Do Not Call Registry.
4. Seek Legal Help
If other options don't work:
Resolve your problem through the legal system. Find free or low-cost legal help.
If you have a problem during an online transaction, try to solve it with the seller or website. If that does not work, file a complaint with:
- Your consumer protection agency.
- The Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
- Your state attorney general.
- Econsumer.gov, if your purchase was with a foreign retailer.
If you made the purchase using your credit card, dispute the charge with your credit card company.
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?
Do you have a question?
Ask a real person any government-related question for free. They'll get you the answer or let you know where to find it.
Last Updated: June 29, 2020