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Britain – a nation of complainers

Britain – a nation of complainers

But are they effective in their complaints?

This week’s figures, compiled by Ombudsman Services [1], show that Britons made 66 million complaints last year, which works out at more than one grumble for every adult in the UK. This figure has risen from the previous year. [2]

Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow, consumer blogger and author of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! warns of treating the figures with caution.

The figures are taken from a survey of only 2,355 of people and scaled up. It doesn’t show how effective these complaints are. Dewdney comments “It is quite possible that more Britons are moaning more about more things but there is little information on whether these are complaints that are effective and gaining redress or whether it is just people having a rant and a moan.”

So are Britons complaining more? Dewdney doesn’t think so, as she sees the same issues cropping up as they did five years ago. “People are still unsure of their legal rights and so easily get fobbed off”, she explains. “Many companies will try and wriggle out of providing a full refund when it is due, for example. Also people give up when given the run around by companies, or don’t know how to complain effectively and so fail in getting refunds and redress.”

How about social media? This offers a new way for consumers to seek justice, with the proportion of complaints raised on sites like Facebook and Twitter increasing to 36 per cent, up five per cent from a year ago – more than 18 million complaints in total. This may account for the rise in complaints but are they actually complaints gaining redress or are they just rants?

When customer services doesn’t work, people have a number of choices as to where to go next, whether it’s to the CEO, to an ombudsman or even to the small claims court.

Marcus Williamson, editor of the consumer website which provides contact details for many CEOs, recommends escalating issues to the CEO as a next step, when necessary. He says “Sometimes it takes an email to the top man or woman to get issues moving. It is the best way to get attention for your issue, if you’re being ignored by the usual channels.”

So, how well do you know your legal rights and how to complain effectively?

1) Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 you are entitled to goods that are of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose, match the description and last a reasonable length of time. If items you purchase are in breach of this Act you are entitled to a full refund (up to 30 days from purchase) repair or replacement.

2) Under the same Act you are entitled to services to be carried out with reasonable skill and care.

3) When complaining, put it in writing so that you have the evidence should you need to take the matter further. If you do ‘phone make sure you take the name of the person, any reference number and follow up any agreements made verbally with an email.

4) Be objective, polite and succinct. Bullet point issues if it is a long complaint.

5) State what you want to happen as an outcome to your complaint, such as explanation, apology, refund etc.

6) Give a deadline by which you expect to receive a response and what you will do if you don’t receive a satisfactory one, such as contacting a relevant ombudsman, Small Claims Court etc.

7) If it is a serious complaint, or you are not satisfied with customer services, go to the CEO. The CEO is unlikely to respond personally (although some will) but the complaint will go to a more senior team than customer services.




[1] Link to Ombudsman Services survey:

[2] Last year’s figure was 38 million complaints.


By Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow

Consultant | Author | Speaker | Blogger | Presenter | Journalist
Helping to make, prevent and deal with complaints

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