Writing v ‘phoning complaints
As many of you who follow this blog know, I always advocate putting your complaints in writing as one my Top Tips for effective complaining. You have evidence that you contacted the company, you can take your time to think about what you want to say, you can bullet point your issues, you can take out emotion, you can go back to it and rewrite until you are happy to send it and you have evidence of what they have or have not said to you (and that makes it hard for a retailer/service provider to deny and certainly going to an ADR scheme or Small Claims Court is made a lot easier with proof!) I had many appendices when I took Tesco to court! Writing means you aren’t left on the ‘phone waiting to get through to people at call centres where a lot of other issues come into play too! Many people who ask me for help with complaints have struggled because they have been phoning and not writing and don’t have a trail.
Recording calls & the law
I often hear people saying that they can record calls and that they will take this to an ADR scheme or Small Claims Court. Be careful here of what you can do! The interception, recording and monitoring of telephone calls is governed by a number of different pieces of UK legislation. It all points to it may be it may not! The guidance you get may be after you have made the call when it is too late.
- The ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) has no guidance on its website but when I emailed them to ask for guidance I was told:
“Admittance of any type of evidence in a court case is decided based on the rules of the court. So whether any call recordings (either recorded for personal use or by a company when they have informed you they are recording calls) can be used in court is entirely up to the judge on a case by case basis. If you are going to court then it would be advisable to speak to your solicitor about it or if you are representing yourself then the court clerk may be able to advise you.”
- The Justice department, (Your rights and the law) said it could not provide legal advice.
- Ofcom give this guidance on recording calls. This says that you can record calls for your own use and if you want to use to share with a third party (such as ADR or SCC) you must ask the person you are calling for their consent. This could be refused in which case you will not be able to use. However, when emailed to give more guidance on whether ‘phone calls can be used in court Ofcom said “I’m afraid we’re not able to give guidance on his matter.”
Therefore, think carefully before ringing as you may not have the evidence you need should you need to take the matter further. I also think that the difficulties of proving what was said in phone calls is a reason that many companies make it so difficult to email! Don’t be beaten because you can always email the CEO – find the address of any CEO here.
Although you should be careful of recording the call, if the company has said it is recording the call for purposes such as training you should be able to get a copy. You can make a Subject Access Request. The company must give you a copy of everything they have to do with you. They must do this for free, The company can only charge a fee to cover administrative costs if the request is manifestly unfounded or excessive. That is unlikely in most cases, particularly as part of a complaint.
Tips if you have to ‘phone to complain
However, sometimes you need to ‘phone as it is urgent. What do you need to bear in mind?
- Write down exactly what you want to say before you pick up the ‘phone, which will mean that you are prepared.
- Take a note of the date and time you started and finished the call
- Be polite, if you aren’t you risk the customer services representative refusing to speak to you
- Ensure you get the name of the person to whom you are talking, first and second name
- Quote relevant Acts where necessary. If you are not receiving services undertaken with reasonable skill and care and that includes over the ‘phone, then say that they are in breach of the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
- Ask the person to whom you are talking to put what has been agreed in writing preferably by email and whilst you are on the ‘phone.
- Read this post about call centres!
But you CAN still write to complain… we have a weapon…
You can write the CEO. Find the details at https://ceoemail.com/. You won’t usually get a personal reply, but you will get one from the Executive team. You can add into the email complaint how appalling it is that in this day and age they make it so difficult to contact them!
Then there is social media, more on that here.
See 20 Top Tips on How to complain effectively and for loads more advice, tips, information, guidance, examples of complaining effectively and templates see How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!