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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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Watchdog – The Consumer Survival Guide review

Matt Allwright wrote a review of my second book 101 Habits of an Effective Complainer. You’d think I would have got round to writing a review of his book Watchdog – the Consumer Survival Guide by now! But better late than never…

Watchdog The Consumer Survival Guide*

The book is of course, a good one. It has a number of sections, such as shopping, renting, bills, looking after your home, travel and cars. It covers some consumer rights but it elicits a wealth of wise counsel in more general areas too. He explores how to get the best deals and how not to get caught out with bad advice. It is a comprehensive consumer guide on how to shop safely and wisely.

Written in a jargon free and light chatty style throughout, it reads as though Matt were talking to the reader. Easy to understand, this is a very handy, useful reference book.

There is a comprehensive chapter covering a variety of scams which explains how they work and what to look out for so you don’t get caught out. This includes employment and romance scams as well as a few consumer issues too.

The cars chapter advises on how to buy a car and encourages the art of haggling! But it also provides thorough guidance on the pros and cons of different sellers, what to look out for and questions to ask. If you know nothing about buying cars this chapter is invaluable.

Matt tackles renting and housing, describing council housing applications, homelessness and what you can do. The book covers common mistakes made by landlords and offers advice on everything you should do before signing a letting contract. Similarly advice is given for phone contracts too.

The shopping chapter covers tricks that supermarkets use, such as watching out for the multi-buys which are often not cheaper than buying the single item. But he also shows how to narrow down the times for the yellow sticker price mark downs! Interestingly, packaging and the possibility that it is not always cheaper to buy loose is included with sales promotion and loyalty analysis.

“Matt Nav” boxes throughout the book are full of anecdotal stories (I’m not the only one to get my Mum into my writing!) and snippets of informative facts and advice. He shares personal stories and ones from the programmes with which he has been involved. For example, raising awareness of conveyancing fraud. In the chapter about looking after your home a “Matt Nav” recalls a great story on how Rogue Traders started. And that chapter talks about drains too, which is a subject not found in many consumer guides!

The only thing that surprises me is that it has taken Matt/Watchdog this length of time to write a book!

Matt Allwright


You can see more about Matt’s own personal complaining habits in my interview with him The complaining habits of public figures – Matt Allwright





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