5 ways how not to use Twitter to complain (and 5 ways how you should)

The twitter symbol How not to complain on TwitterI hear all the time from people that they have successfully complained because they have used social media. Occasionally if used in the right way, your complaint is simple, the trader has a good social media team and the wind is in the right direction this may be the case. Used in the right way it can be a good tool to name and shame and speed things up but that’s the limit as in the end you will still need to provide all the details off the public forum which is as good as sending an email in the first place. So what are the no nos?

1) A rant is not an effective complaint. Don’t get me wrong, I can rant for England and if ever there was an Olympics for ranting I’d be there. I will name and shame where it’s genuine too, it’s good for a laugh if nothing else. But it isn’t a complaint. It isn’t going to get you redress. Sometimes the company will respond sometimes they won’t. If you carry on ranting it’s the same as shouting, it’s not going to get you anywhere. It’s pointless and frankly very few people, if anyone is taking any notice of your rants. Why? Because social media is full of them and it’s boring. Remember I rant for England, but you’ll notice my rants are after I’ve effectively got my redress or just a rant for rant’s sake because I want to get it out of my head and I feel better then! So if you want to rant and it makes you feel better, do it, don’t expect anything significant from it though ‘cos no one cares. Think – how many times have you ever really joined in or contributed to someone else’s rant?

2) Personal information. I was in a meeting the other week with some people from a few financial institutions and other consumer organisations looking at complaints handling (trust me 3 hours we only scraped the surface!) but I was asked by a senior executive of a very large financial institution what I thought about complaining on social media. I said it drove me nuts. It isn’t the place to effectively sort out complicated issues and it certainly isn’t the place to be trying to resolve financial products. He agreed saying that they have a problem with people giving out personal details. They are far less worried about you saying “oi @xyzbank your service stinks” than you being very polite and then giving your age, your address and your policy numbers openly! You are opening yourself up to fraud on your account to say nothing of identity theft.

3) Hashtags. Really? Must you? Inventing your own? Unless you have hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers who are all going to rt you why are you bothering? Who is going to look? Who is going to care? Perhaps find and use a hashtag so your tweets come up as one of many,  but think about it, how often do you look up a hashtag that you don’t know exactly what it is for and join in?!

4) Keeping on. Now, I know I say if you aren’t happy go back until you are, but that’s when you have written your email outlining exactly what you want. I can keep going for as long as it takes going through customer services, the CEO, ombudsmen, the court, whatever, but not on Twitter or Facebook! I have been known to have a conversation or two with Virgin Media on Twitter. But that’s because I simply had a query that I wanted to do online and they were thoroughly obtuse. Only answering within certain times of the day and stuff! So I ended up having a conversation complaining about their stupid systems and their responses which had nothing to do with the initial enquiry anyway! (Now, see? I could rant forever and a day about the telecoms sector! But if you could too but actually want to get anything resolved see All you need to know about complaining to telecom providers) So where was I? Ah yes probably proving my point about not ranting in the last few sentences. If the company has not responded to two of your tweets or you haven’t been asked to send details about the complaint via their processes/email/private message then stop. Either you haven’t made yourself clear or they are useless at dealing with complaints on social media. Whatever the reason you are now wasting your time. No one is listening and you are being ineffective. Stop.

5) Copying in consumer people and organisations. I’m afraid I am unable to pick up people’s tweets and do their complaints for them. How can I possibly without all the information? And see Contact for more on what I can and can’t do). Imagine if I picked up or commented on everyone who follows me tweeted their complaints! I’d do nothing else! So how can the big guys, Watchdog, Rip Off, Dom Littlewood, MSE all do it? They can’t and won’t it just isn’t possible. Nor is it fair to pick up one tweet and not another, your complaint is not unique I promise you! (Have the manners to tweet me personally and I’ll direct you to the relevant page on my blog though!) If I can’t do it with only about 10k followers (plus the people who don’t even follow me, yet expect me to do something!) how on earth could the big organisations/media do it? It will not make the company any more likely to deal with your complaint because they know that anyone you have copied in will not get involved. Don’t waste the characters!

Good examples of how to use Twitter to complain.

1) Quick stuff. This is where the company has your bank details and can refund you. E.g. @tesco here is a pic of the rotten tomatoes that came in my delivery please refund. Appropriate response? “Sorry to hear that, please dm us your order number email and mailing adds., will reimburse.”

Complaining using Twitter various pics of supermarket goods with tweets about cracked eggs, rotten grapes and tomatoes

2) Where you have not had a reply to a written complaint e.g. “@virginmedia wrote to you on (date) not had reply please investigate”. Appropriate but unlikely response “Sorry to hear that please dm your name, add, and account number and we will look into this.” Then follow up in the dm with the required details and give deadline for wanting response.

3) When you don’t know where to send your complaint e.g. “@anytelecomco I have a complaint I want to email you but there is no email address please provide”. Appropriate response (from most companies but few if any telecoms)  “here it is …” you have the choice of carrying on arguing pointlessly, or to use ceoemail.com and write to the CEO and add to your complaint that if their site provided an email address instead of whatever way they have tried to make you contact them it would be a lot better!

4) Part query, part complaint e.g.”@traincompany 5.40 to London delayed no information being given at all please advise”. Appropriate response (most cases) “due to xxx next train will be at yyyyy” or similar.

5) Query turning into complaint about fob off! E.g. “@retailer my order hasn’t been delivered”. Appropriate response “Please dm us your order number, name and address and we will investigate for you.” If fobbed off say “@retailer no, under Consumer Rights Act 2015 my contract is with you. Pls follow so can send you details for you to investigate”. (For more on your rights regarding deliveries see Your Rights, Mail Order, Online and Deliveries.

If you don’t get the appropriate responses do not waste your time continuing with social media. You are not succeeding.

See Top 20 Tips How to Complain! for complaining effectively.

How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!


For effective complaining information, guidance consumer laws, rights and template letters to ensure you get the redress to which you are entitled, GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

Your rights and how to complain about ferries and cruises

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 was applied to ferries from 1st October 2016. You are now entitled to services carried out with reasonable skill and care. If they are not then you should be able to gain redress.

If your ferry service is cancelled or departure is delayed for more than 90 minutes, you are entitled to either an alternative sailing at the earliest opportunity at no additional cost or reimbursement of the ticket price which should be paid within seven days. If you choose an alternative crossing, you’re still entitled to claim compensation for the delay to your original journey.

While you wait (when delayed for more than 90 minutes or it is expected to be cancelled) you are entitled to meals and refreshments if they can be reasonably supplied even if the reason is bad weather.

If an overnight stay is required due to the delay/cancellation then the ferry or cruise operator must offer you accommodation free of charge, if possible. This can be on board or ashore.

Your ferry company can offer alternatives such as permitting you to make your own separate plans to travel and reimburse your expenses. No overnight accommodation has to be offered or costs reimbursed if the delay is caused by weather conditions endangering the safe operation of the ship.

For all things complaining holidays see All you need to know about booking/complaining about holidays/flights

For more advice, tips and templates for complaining  see GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

Fake Farms – A bad country smell that won’t go away…

You might remember a story about Tesco “fake farms” from March? Tesco launched a series of new “farm” ranges. It was widely reported that people felt duped into thinking that a) they were real farms where the products were coming from and b) that they were buying British. I went about doing some more research and challenged Tesco CEO Dave Lewis several times on the matter on this issue. Some of these farms were similar sounding to existing farms too. I mean really similar!

Tesco Name  – Woodside Farms    

Woodside Farm (Derbyshire)
Woodside Farm (Bedfordshire)
Woodside Farm (Nottingham b & b)
Woodside Farm (Nottingham)
Woodside Farm (Cork)

Tesco Name  – Willow Farms 
Willows Farm (Skegness)
Willow Farm (Hertfordshire)

Tesco Name  – Boswell Farms
Boswell Farm  (Devon)

Suntrail Farms
Rosedene Farms
Redmere Farms
Nightingale farms

One even has the same name!

Woodside Farms is in Jersey and you know what? It even sells to supplying the Co-op and Waitrose in Jersey and Guernsey it is also available in SandpiperCI group food stores, including Iceland, in both Jersey and Guernsey. So, not only has Tesco used names similar to those that exist, it has also used the exact name of a farm that actually supplies to three supermarkets. I asked the Tesco CEO to comment on this but bizarrely he as yet has failed to provide any.

Woodside Farm in Cork was keen to let people know that they were nothing to do with supplying Tesco, tweeting, for example;

Fake farms Tesco

People expressed their displeasure with the marketing ploy:

Tesco fake farm tweet

Others showed their displeasure with irony and humour:

Fake farm Tesco post by The Complaining Cow

Farms took to Twitter to show how they feel insulted:

Fake farm tesco post by Helen Dewdney

Matt Simister Commercial Director
On You and Yours on the 6th July 2016 Tesco said that 2/3 of customers have tried the range but this doesn’t mean that they understood that the brand was not necessarily British. On the programme customers spoke of how they felt misled. One person spoke about how she bought some Rosedene strawberries and saw that they were British and deliberately bought Rosedene apples thinking that they would also be British, believing Rosedene to be a British farm. However, the Rosedene apples were grown in South Africa. And what of the other third of Tesco customers? Another spoke of her disappointment at not being able to buy British, particularly when Tesco had clearly chosen British sounding farm names.

Matt Simister, Commercial Director, Fresh Food and Commodities said that most of the produce comes seasonally from the UK but goes overseas when out of season or not grown in the UK. When asked what proportion comes from the UK, he was unable to answer the question.

He also said that sales were really good and have stayed good and didn’t answer Winifred Robinson’s question regarding whether they would make any changes given the feedback for customers, choosing instead to focus on quality that customers can trust…

A challenge to the Tesco CEO

The Complaining Cow asks Tesco Dave Lewis about fake farms
I decided to challenge Tesco CEO, Dave Lewis, on this (See Tesco history – this isn’t the first time 🙂  and so wrote to him several times on the issue. I had to return to the matter several times as I didn’t find his replies satisfactory. The points raised were:

1) Believing that the labelling is a breach of Regulation 5 of the Consumer Protection From Unfair Trading Regs (misleading action) which is an offence under Regulation 9. By default it is also a breach of Regulation 3 (professional diligence) which is an offence under Regulation 8.

What matters under Reg 5 is not whether it is factually correct, but it is the overall impression that counts. Misleading practices – through the information the practice contains or its deceptive presentation, it causes, or is likely to cause, the average consumer to take a different transactional decision. A breach of this Act is a £5000 fine and/or imprisonment for each breach. It also causes what’s called a ‘community infringement’ which means Trading Standards can hit a trader with Part 8 of the Enterprise Act (Enforcement Orders) which means that even if a trader gets a hefty fine under CPUTRs then they could also get an Enforcement Order against them and they can go to prison for longer than under a prosecution.

2) Whilst I may want to buy tomatoes all year round, I don’t want to believe that I am buying from a British farm when I am not. It may well say the country of origin but in far bigger, more noticeable letters is the name “Woodside Farms” or one of the other names. One could argue that one only starts to look at country or origin if they doubt the labelling. So there you have it, people trust the British farm-sounding label as a British farm or they already don’t trust Tesco and look to the country of origin! And why is the animal being reared in Holland and slaughtered in Germany anyway?

3) I do not believe that this is Tesco being transparent. It is marketing and whether customers know that or not they don’t like it.

4) What happened to due diligence? Surely, that would have highlighted that there were farms with very similar and in one case exactly the same names?

5) How much does Tesco pay Trading Standards for the advice it provides (could it be possible that Trading Standards won’t prosecute a company which is paying it?)

Dave Lewis response
Well, there were 3 of them (told you I kept going back to him! Well he did tell me a couple of years ago to keep complaining it was the only way Tesco would improve!) But the main points here were:

1) “This all comes back to the wider point that good marketing can polarise opinion. We’ve seen the debate, and understand it, but the most important thing for us is what customers think. That’s why we developed the new brands with customers in mind, and we continue to listen to them now”.

2) “While they told us that they understood that a single farm couldn’t possibly supply Tesco, they did say it was important that we work in partnership with growers and farmers who stick to strict quality standards. We do, and when the market was updated in May, I said that more than 95% of the commentary from customers has been neutral or positive about the action they’ve taken. The country of origin is clearly labelled on all the products and we’re completely transparent about where the products come from.”

3) “In addition to listening to customers, we completed legal due diligence on the brand names in relation to intellectual property, as you’d expect.”

4) “Thanks also for your comments on our Woodside Farms brand. As with all our seven new brands, this is a brand rather than a business, and this particular brand is focused on providing customers with great quality, affordable pork products. As above, we did due diligence for this brand.”

5) “We named our brands to represent the quality of our fresh food and history of working closely with suppliers, not after existing farms. Hertfordshire Trading Standards – charges on a cost recovery basis for advice given, which is a typical way for them to fund this service.” They don’t believe we are misleading consumers in relation to their purchasing decision on these brands.”

6) “The wider point here is that creating brands in this way is not at all uncommon in food marketing. Some of the UK’s most iconic and popular food brands have been created in a similar way. Customers do completely understand this – they are much more marketing literate than they’re given credit for. My experience of Tesco customers is that they are among the most savvy in Britain – and they do understand that all the products come from farms.”

Update 15/09/16 Then I asked him again in an interview: (see The Complaining Cow interviews Tesco bosses for more details and full interview)

So clearly, Tesco see the whole thing as acceptable marketing despite the public and media reports on the lack of transparency and it being misleading. Is it patronising to customers who do just accept it and/or insulting to those feel they are misled to say that they are “among the most savvy in Britain”? I might well understand that it is from a farm but I still don’t like the way it is misleading thank you very much.

Advertising Standards Authority
Their response was simply “I’m sorry to tell you that despite receiving a few complaints about this issue we are not entitled to deal with complaints of this nature because it relates to material that is not covered by the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising Practice, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing.

We would consider this to constitute the labelling on a product, and as you can see from section II – m of the Code on our website, our remit does not cover labels or packaging.”

National Farmers Union
According to Tesco and other supermarkets using fake farm brands spark complaint from NFU in The Independent 19/07/16  three in five people who said they believed such products were “definitely” or “probably” British admitted that they would feel misled if they were informed that it came from overseas, according to a YouGov survey commissioned by the NFU. In a survey in the Independent readers were asked “Do you mind that Tesco uses fictitious farms in its branding?” 82% said “Yes it’s misleading.“

The NFU has taken its complaints to national Trading Standards. However I have also already done that and the response showed that it was going to do little to address the issue, so it will be interesting to see if the NFU get the same response.

Trading Standards Response
“I think that whilst I can see that there is controversy, the retailer in cases such as this could rely on the label names being brands as opposed to them being illustrative of geographical locations.

These labels they say ‘farm’. The origin of the products is likely to have been a farm. They refer to fictional named farms, and I can see that some assert that this misleads because it gives the impression that the farm sounds British. I think this is the central issue but I think it would be difficult to persuade a judge that these fictional names suggest a clear geographical origin to the purchaser (especially when on the same small label, the country of production is included).

If the label had said Essex Farms or Wiltshire Farms or some other name linked to a geographical location then perhaps it would be worth examining”.

Update 20/12/16 Tesco on track to increase fake farms

So what do you think? Misleading? Think items are British? Now you know many aren’t will you still buy? Do you buy because the quality and value is good but you still don’t like the ethics?

I look forward to hearing your views!

You can contact the UK Tesco CEO or Group CEO here

History with Tesco links to all the posts over the last few years where I have complained, taken them to court, met With Dave Lewis..

For the full interview see The Complaining Cow interviews Dave Lewis & Matt Davies.


All you need to know to make a complaint about energy

So much to complain about in the energy sectors?! Listed below are links to various helpful posts about any issue you may be having with your supplier, your rights, how to get it sorted and gain redress.Electricity pylon Everything you need to know to complain about energy problems

All you need to know when your phone/energy bill is wrong how to complain about a wrong bill

How To Take Charge of Your Energy Bills – advice and tips about switching

When SE leaves your elderly aunt without adequate heating for 11 days… story about being without heating for 11 days and the redress gained

Your energy and your rights – what you should know mis-sellling, putting people on the wrong tariffs and over charging

Ofgem Standards of Conduct and Quality Standards companies have to abide by certain standards

All You Need To Know About Comparison Websites accreditation and FCA

Do Morethan just comparison websites for insurance quotes! how to do more than just use a comparison website for energy, insurance etc.

1 little Known Fact You Need to Know When Your Gas is Cut Off! Gas Standards and entitlements

Energy ombudsman shows how to keep heat on your supplier Ombudsman from Ombudsman Services gives tips on how to make sure you complain effectively right from the start so if you do need to go to the Ombudsman you will be successful.

Freezing energy problems? Your rights all you need to know if your energy supply was affected by the weather.

Tips for effective complaining

How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!



How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! for masses of advice, tips, guidance and template letters




Use ceoemail.com to find the email address of the company CEO and write to him or her particularly if the company doesn’t provide an email address for you to write to customer services!

Keep up to date with consumer rights and sign up to newsletter:

Discussing NPower complaints

All you need to know when your phone/energy bill is wrong

It has been in the news a lot recently about Vodafone and their billing mistakes. It moved to a new billing platform and since then there have been masses of reports of serious blunders, such as direct debits incorrectly set up, people being put on the wrong tariff and credit agencies wrongly being told that customers have missed payments. So what if you are one of these customers or indeed if you receive bills of any sort what should you do?

Check your bills
Always check your bills. Check that it is what you think it should be. Then check your bank if you pay by direct debit because there’s always a chance that the company has messed that up! Go back through your statements for months too if you haven’t been checking them.

What to do if you find a problem
Act as soon as you find out. You can ring but you won’t have a record or evidence of what they have said they will do. Recording the call is not a great option because unless they give their permission for you to do this you won’t be able to use it in court should you need to do this. Recording calls and the law. You can use online chat if available. Don’t trust that this will be emailed to you even if they say it will be! Copy and paste the transcript into a document. If you have to ring do so through their free number and follow tips for ringing.

Follow the tips for effective complaining.

Don’t cancel any direct debits. This will confuse the issue and may affect your credit rating.

Taking it further
If you get nowhere with customer services, find the CEO contact details from ceoemail.com and write to him or her. Vodafone CEO contact details. You are highly unlikley to get a response directly from him or her but it will be an escalataion as the CEO will have a senior team to deal with complaints. Make sure you add all the dates and evidence of what was agreed prior to writing to him/her.

If this still gets you nowhere then go to the Ombudsman. There is CISAS and the Communication Ombudsman. Your ‘phone provider will be a member of only one of these schemes and you will need to check to see which one. You must ask for a letter of deadlock or wait until 8 weeks has passed since your inital complaint.

Energy bills
Same advice with energy bills. Go to the Energy Ombudsman after following the advice above.

Your rights
Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 you are entitled to services that are carried out with reasonable skill and care and therefore if the company messes up your bills this is not reasonable skill and care. The company must put you back into the position you were in before the mistakes arose. So for example, if you incurred additional expense such as having to ring the company repeatedly then you should add this to your claim. (Generally speaking, unless excessive, you aren’t entitled to redress for time taken on the matter).  If your credit rating has been affected the company must also correct this.

If mistakes are made by the company then you can and should argue that under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 the company is in breach of contract so therefore if you want you can terminate early without paying the penalty.

Regulatory bodies
Ofcom is the regulatory body for phone providers. It cannot investigate individual complaints. However,  you can inform them of problems and if a significant number of people do this regarding the issue then it will investigate and take action. Ofgem does the same for energy companies.

For more information on how to complain to ‘phone providers and others see Tips and the book and keep up to date with consumer news with the newsletter.