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How to take a complaint further

This is a version of the article How to escalate a complaint when customer services fails that first appeared on The Metro website 28 December 2021.

How to escalate a complaint when customer services fails

Complaining can often be infuriating. You can be sent from pillar to post, fobbed off, ignored, or they may keep you waiting on the phone wasting your time. They may tell you that you should have taken out a warranty, despite the fact that your consumer rights will be worth more. You may have a lost parcel and the retailer tells you to take it up with the courier. This is a common fob off, as your contract is always with the retailer.

So what do you do when you can’t get a satisfactory resolution to your complaint through customer services?

There are a number of ways you can take the matter further.

Man arms out stretched banging fist on table

Contact the CEO is a website that provides email addresses for CEOs. Over the years this site has become increasingly popular, showing the effectiveness of using this method and perhaps a growing frustration with customer services. The editor of the site, Marcus Williamson, says “Try to resolve your issue via customer services first. But if you’re not getting the answer you need then escalate to the CEO using the email address from our website.“

The CEO may not respond personally. However, it will get the matter escalated, often via a dedicated CEO team who have more autonomy and authority to resolve issues.

After obtaining the email address for the CEO, write to them explaining the situation. Detail all contact so far and send attachments with any correspondence that you have had with the company. Quote the applicable law or regulations which they are breaching. For example, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 – if items are not of satisfactory quality, do not last a reasonable length of time, do not match the description or are faulty then you are entitled to a refund, repair or replacement. (Full refund up to 30 days from purchase).

Outline that you are a loyal customer, if applicable. Be polite, succinct and objective. State what you want to resolve the matter. Is it a full refund? A repair? Replacement? Or even just an apology? You should provide a deadline by which you expect to receive a satisfactory response. State what you will do if this is not forthcoming. This could be sharing your experiences on relevant review sites and forums or one of the options below.

You can send the email with a delivery receipt should you need to take it further.

And if you don’t get that satisfactory response, then take the next steps you have outlined. You can choose to send one last email telling them what you are doing.

Use an Alternative Dispute Resolution provider

Most people will have heard of the Financial Ombudsman, The Energy Ombudsman and there are two providers for telecoms.

These are in the statutory sectors and companies in these areas must be a member of the appropriate scheme. Telecoms providers can be a member of Ombudsman Services: Telecoms or the Communication & Internet Services Adjudication Scheme

Ombudsman Services is the largest ADR provider in the UK and includes Energy and telecoms. The Energy Ombudsman has accepted more than 60,000 cases from consumers in the first ten months of 2021.

A spokesperson for Ombudsman Services says that

“Billing complaints are by far the most common type of complaint that we see, accounting for around two thirds of complaints across the sector.” Other common disputes include those around meters, customer service, payments and transfers. “We continue to work with providers and regulators to identify and address the key reasons for these issues.”

There are, however, a number of other ADR providers in non-statutory sectors. Many people are unaware of these and the help that they can provide.

For example, did you know that there is a Motor Ombudsman whose members include vehicle manufacturers, warranty product providers, franchised dealers, independent garages, networks and bodyshops? The Dispute Resolution Ombudsman along with the Furniture & Home Improvement Ombudsman (FHIO) and Rail Ombudsman provide Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) for the rail, retail and the furniture and home improvement sectors.

These schemes are voluntary and you will need to check if your trader is a member before threatening to go to an Ombudsman.

You can submit a case to an ADR provider 8 weeks from when a complaint was started or when you receive a “deadlock letter” [passive fixed!]. A deadlock letter is provided by the provider stating that it will be the final correspondence.

You can find a list of all the ADR providers on the Chartered Trading Standards Institute ADR Providers list.

More on ADR what it is and my work around it.

Small Claims Court

Ultimately you may need to go to the small claims court. Before this, you can threaten court action very effectively by showing that you mean business and this can often get the desired result.

Guide to the Small Claims court

Go to make-money-claim in England and Wales. For Scotland go to and Northern Ireland

Fill in all the details until “submit”. This should include everything that you are claiming for, plus the court costs which vary according to the amount you are claiming. Add in any out-of-pocket expenses, such as travel costs that you may have incurred or will incur in attending court. Then take a screenshot.

Email the CEO attaching the screenshot, forward the previous correspondence and change the subject line to “email before action”. In the email write that further to previous correspondence you are not satisfied with the response and will be taking the matter through the small claims court.

Give them a deadline by which to reply or you will click submit with no further recourse to them. This tells them quite clearly that you are serious about taking them to court, know how to do it and will do so. It rarely fails to do the trick!

If, however, this still does not elicit a satisfactory response, you can go to court. Costs vary depending on the amount you are claiming and in what part of the UK you live.

Showing you know your stuff and won’t be fobbed off demonstrates to the retailer that you mean business. Using these methods you are more likely to get the redress to which you are entitled.

How to escalate your consumer issue

Further help with complaining effectively

Top 20 Tips How to complain effectively


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What to do with unwanted gifts

This is a version of the article What to do with an unwanted Christmas gift that originally appeared on The Metro website on 26/12/21

The Unwanted Gifts that Keep on Giving

Hopefully this Christmas Santa brought you everything you wanted. However, all of us at some point have received a gift that didn’t meet our hopes. The jumper that doesn’t fit, something to which we are allergic… The list is endless and however grateful we are for the thought, we are sometimes stuck with that unwanted present. So what can you do with it?

plastic straws, fly, presents

I have some tips to share to give you some ideas.

Return for a refund

If you have a gift receipt you should be able to take the item back to the store and get a full refund. However, if you do not have a proof of purchase you may not be able to take the item back. Some stores, particularly larger ones, may take an item back without proof of purchase. However, they will give you the current price.

So, if the price of the item has dropped in the post-Christmas sale this is the price that you will get.

Christmas presents, returns – your rights for more details on your rights.

Recycle, upcycle and repurpose

Donate to clothes and shoe banks. But you can also be imaginative and creative too. When you give the toiletries or food contents from hampers and boxes away keep the container to use again or even as a bin. Use mugs as pen pots, dishes for the birds, socks into puppets and you can even turn a jumper into a cushion!

Sometimes you may like an item and just simply wish it was in a difficult colour. Lyndsey Edwards of Reimagise Personal stylist says simply “consider dying it at home using a Dylon pod. There are a huge variety of shades to choose from!”

If the item is too big you could also take it to your local tailor or seamstress to have it altered to fit you perfectly. They will also be able to tweak the overall style of the item too, if it’s not quite to your taste.

Ruth Mary Chipperfield is the owner of Ruth Mary Jewellery. She suggests remodelling jewellery into something new. She is currently doing this with a client’s Cross. “You can do a lot of metal by reshaping and refashioning.”

Claire Stitt from Stapos Thrifty Life Hacks says that if you get gifted something that you don’t particularly want, need, or like, then have a good think about how else you can use it to make your life a bit easier. For example, a scarf can become a duster, a picture frame can be used with a different picture

Be honest!

Thriftychap blogger, Joseph Seager, suggests something rather refreshing! He says that you could be honest about it and give it back to the giver. “It could be that you’ve already got the item or you simply don’t like it. Whatever the reason, they’ve bought it and if you don’t need or want it, they could make use of it or get their own money back. That openness could help you avoid a similar situation next year.” This brave but honest move could be a win-win for both parties.


Of course, this is the most frequently used and obvious choice. However, if you have a drawer full of these items, make sure you make a note of who has given you what. It is not uncommon for people to regift something to the person who gave it to them and this would certainly be embarrassing! I’ve even known someone regift a book of friendship with the front page ripped out which had a personalised message to her!

Giving away

Stacie Cherry Swift, who focuses on positivity, self-care and mental well-being, says that people on her road regularly give things away when they have a clear out. “Put the gifts outside your door with a ‘FREE’ sign.” Stacie has picked up candles, books and kitchenware while walking up to town or on the school run. “It’s nice to pass on to someone else but also spares the feelings of the gift-giver (unless they are your neighbour!”)

Katie Louise Young from The Finance Fettler advocates paying the act of kindness forward. “Attach an anonymous note to the item purposefully leave it somewhere to be found by someone who may appreciate it more. Perhaps leave it on a colleague’s desk, at a bus stop, on the tube etc.” You really could make the difference to someone’s day!

Charity and community

Charity shops regularly need things to sell. Charities are in need of funds more than ever before. Consider more than just the charity shop though. Your charity shop may still have a backlog from after the lockdown. If you have been given perishable items see if there is a community kitchen or similar that can take the items from you. Hampers of food and toiletries can be broken up and given to your local food bank. Or you could give toiletries to a local hospital for families who have had not had a chance to bring these items with them.

Hold some items back for your child’s school fete raffle in the summer. Keeping items for later on in the year can help charities particularly those that struggle more at other times. Teachers often receive numerous presents and whilst grateful for the thought, sometimes they do end up with some unwanted items. 30 candles can be difficult to use!

Eileen Adamson from Your Money Sorted was a teacher and is now a money coach for other teachers. She advises teachers and other members of the school community to donate as a great fund raising tool. “From all the unwanted gifts, the school can create a few hampers, which can then be raffled to raise money for the school or a chosen charity.”

Selling unwanted gifts

You can sell your items on auction websites, market places and car boot sales. 

Exchange unwanted gifts

“Hold an unwanted gift exchange party!”, enthuses Hayley Muncey from Miss Many Pennies. Everyone brings an unwanted present and swaps for someone else’s unwanted gift. “Hopefully everyone ends up with something they like more, and if not it’s still a good excuse to have some fun and a post-Christmas social event while everyone’s calendar is empty after the festivities!”

In a modern take of Multi-coloured Swap Shop you can take good condition clothes and jewellery to a Swish event and swap them. Organise an event yourself or search online to find a local one.

Keith Grinstead runs Goodbye Lonely. It aims to help people through loneliness, isolation and mental health issues. On Boxing Day, Keith will be running a Zoom session “as a bit of fun to bring people together who are on their own. We’ll also give people the opportunity to swap or give away unwanted presents.”

Stop unwanted presents in the future

Perhaps this year is the year that you have a chat with people about reducing the present buying next time?! Discuss with friends and family ways to reduce the waste. Suggest only giving to the children, having wish lists, only doing a Secret Santa, putting a cost limit on things or agreeing to each give a lump sum to someone’s chosen charity.

Christmas decorations border how to save money when shopping Christmas and salesHow to save money when shopping for Christmas and in the sales. These are various posts about shopping ethically, your rights when it comes to shopping on line and in store, returns, gift cards and what to do with unwanted gifts.