Faced with the prospect of long battles with call-centre drones or just plain silence from big corporations, most of us cannot summon the energy to complain about poor service from insurers, banks, retailers and more.
But moaning can be lucrative. I recently had an problem with one of the country’s Big Six energy providers, which had wrongly moved my power supply to another firm.
After lengthy to-ing and fro-ing as the firm first claimed it hadn’t done anything wrong, but then after three months admitted that it had, eventually, the problem was sorted and I asked for compensation. The firm suggested £100. I said that was not enough and mentioned the magic words that I would take the case to the industry Ombudsman. The provider then almost tripled its compensation offer, and I went away happy.
Anyone who suffers from poor service, an arranged delivery not turning up, wrong bills or similar should pick up the phone to complain to the company. You can often even claim compensation for the time you’ve spent complaining - firms will often give a £5 bill reduction, say, for a 5-minute phone conversation.
The rules of successful complaining:
* Contact the right person: it’s not hard to find out the name of most company bosses: Google, and the website CEOemail.com, which lists hundreds of chief executives’ details, will both help. The CEO won’t usually actually check these email addresses, but will have a team of “executive helpers” who tend to deal with complaints more quickly and helpfully than elsewhere.
* Take notes: from the first time you pick up the phone or pen a letter to complain, jot down notes of the time and date, and name of the person. Later on these can provide evidence of the extent of hassle you’ve gone through and why you deserve more cash in redress.
* Be polite: shouting is rude and won’t improve your chances of success.
* Know your rights: any purchased items must, by law, be of “satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described”, whatever they cost. If they are not, return it and ask for a refund, repair or replacement. Online, you’ve got more rights as Distance Selling Regulations mean shoppers can return goods within a week for a full refund, even if there’s no fault. In either case, you’ll need proof of purchase such as receipt, credit-card bill or bank statement.
* Complain to industry ombudsman: for complaints about a product like broadband or banking that the firm does not solve to your satisfaction, you may need to contact the industry’s ombudsman — Ofcom for telecoms (consumers.ofcom.org.uk/tell-us), the FOS for issues related to banking, insurance, mortgages, credit cards, loans, pensions, hire purchase and pawn broking (financial-ombudsman.org.uk or 0800 023 4567). Or check out the site howtocomplain.com.