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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

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Tesco website crash – every little helps?

Major supermarket online shopping hit by mystery attack?

Tesco’s website was been “down” between Saturday 23 October 2021 and today (Monday 25 October 2021). The website and app crashed after what Tesco said were attempts “to interfere with our systems”. In other words, hacking…

This has obviously been annoying for anyone trying to book a shopping delivery slot but also for anyone wanting to change their order or cancel it. How many of us book a slot with a pint of milk in it to add items throughout the week and day before delivery? To say nothing of the problems this has caused those who are self-isolating.

Tesco website down

It is concerning that Tesco took nearly 48 hours to resolve the problem, which suggests that the issues could be more than just not being able to change an order. An outage of this length is unusual unless there has been a severe impact, which suggests that Tesco’s business continuity plans, along with their incident response drills, could use some attention and investment.

I have been looking at the issue from a legal perspective. She advises those who have a Delivery Saver, Click and Collect or Delivery Saver Plan could be due a partial refund if they have been affected.

You have paid for a service and under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, if you have not received the service you paid for, you are entitled to a refund. In this case you should certainly be entitled to a proportion of the plan.

Are there data breach issues?

At the moment Tesco says that there is no reason to believe that there has been a data breach. But it remains to be seen whether the hackers have obtained personal data. Tesco has 72 hours in which to inform the Information Commissioner’s Office if there has been a breach of data.

James Bores, from Bores Security Consultancy, comments that assurances that customer data is not impacted are common in these circumstances, and often meaningless. He says “From the little information that is available it does not appear to be a standard ‘Denial of Service’ attack (intended to shut down a system, usually with a ransom for restoration), nor a ransomware attack of the type with which we’re all highly familiar. Given that Tesco declared the search function was impacted, some sort of attempt to manipulate or modify the underlying database certainly seems possible, and one of the most common ways for this to be carried out is through database injection.”

Your rights when there is a data breach

So, what are your rights if your personal data is exposed as a result of a breach?

Under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), if there has been a breach of data:

1) Organisations must assess the risk to your personal rights and freedoms.

2) High risk breaches must be notified to the persons whose data has been affected without undue delay and with a description of the likely consequences.

3) Organisations must describe the measures taken, being taken or proposed to be taken to deal with the data breach. If applicable, organisations should also describe the measures to mitigate any possible adverse effects.

What happens next?

A Tesco spokesperson said:

“Our online grocery website and app are now back up and running. Our teams have worked around the clock to restore service, and we’re really sorry to our customers for the inconvenience caused. The disruption was the result of an attempt to interfere with our systems, which had caused problems with the search function on the site.

There is no reason to believe that this issue impacted customer data and we continue to take ongoing action to make sure all data stays safe.”

Bores says “At this point Tesco’s security team will be trying to get forensic data to determine exactly what happened, as it can be extremely difficult to uncover the underlying flaw. They will then look to find ways to prevent it re-occurring.”

Tesco needs to be transparent and inform customers about exactly what happened, why it happened and reassure them that their data is safe. In the meantime, consumers need to be aware that scammers are rife and will take advantage of incidents like this. If anyone contacts you from Tesco regarding a data breach, it may be a scam, so beware.

Download Tesco & The Complaining Cow case study.

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