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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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Business Companies customer service Complaining about customer service Latest News telecoms

Ofcom says firms need to “up their games” in complaints handling

Communications regulator reveals latest figures on customer satisfaction

Ofcom has just released its latest figures on broadband customer satisfaction in the UK.

Level of satisfaction with broadband services

The survey found that:

“Overall, 83% of broadband customers are satisfied with their service (similar to last year: 80%), while 13% had reason to complain in 2018 (down from 15% in 2017).

TalkTalk scores below the industry average on several measures, with its broadband customers less likely to be satisfied with their overall service and less likely to recommend their provider to a friend.

TalkTalk customers are also more likely to have a reason to complain, less likely to have their complaint resolved on first contact, and less likely be satisfied with how their complaint is handled.”

Last year TalkTalk was found to be joint worst with Virgin Media. Followers of me on Twitter will know that I was not shocked to see VM at the bottom.

The BBC reported that “A spokeswoman for TalkTalk said the data showed an “improving trend” on the number of complaints.” But on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Ofcom’s director of market intelligence, Ian Macrae, pointed out the obvious saying “It’s hard for TalkTalk to hide from the fact that their customer service isn’t up to scratch”. He also added “”We absolutely think that the firms need to up their games in the way they handle complaints.”

chart showing Talk Talk above average for complaints

Plusnet (owned by BT) complaints more than doubled in the last quarter of 2018 when it experienced problems with the launch of a new billing system.

The report describes how only HALF of those who make a complaint are happy with the result. This is no surprise to me given the large number of times I still get asked to help with telecom complaints. The total number of complaints to Ofcom about broadband actually fell by 23% in the survey.

Level of satisfaction with mobile services

The Ofcom survey on mobile services showed little change from the previous year.

93% of mobile customers are satisfied with their overall service (last year this was 91% so a small increase) and 3% said they were unhappy.

This is probably due to it being easier to change contracts (no email addresses to worry about unlike your broadband provider!) and yearly contracts. The 3% are probably those who are in a contract that they can’t yet leave. The survey reported that:

“Giffgaff and Tesco Mobile customers are more likely to recommend their provider to a friend. Their customers also have above-average satisfaction with value for money (97% for giffgaff and 92% for Tesco Mobile, compared to an 87% average).

Most likely to recommend chart

Vodafone customers, on the other hand, are less likely to be satisfied with value for money (82%), while Virgin Mobile customers have below-average satisfaction with how their complaint is handled. Both companies are also less likely to resolve complaints on first contact.”

Sky Mobile, a newcomer to the market, entered the league table for the first time and did so with the fewest complaints.

I am surprised to see EE where it is. It is the only company that I have left and never returned to in any sector wholly due to its poor customer service. That was a couple of years ago, perhaps they have since improved.

Complaints to Ofcom overall

Complaints to Ofcom about broadband firms actually fell by 23% last year from the previous year. Complaints about mobile companies fell by 15%.

However, satisfaction with mobile reception is increasing across the board (87%, up from 84% last year).

Sky is the least-complained about provider across all four services – broadband, landline, mobile and pay TV. I have to say it is also the company about which I hear fewest complaints.Graph of providers with satisfaction levels over quarters

Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s Consumer Group Director, said:

“Shabby service can be more than just frustrating; it can have a big impact on people and small businesses who rely on being connected.

When you’re shopping around for a phone or broadband service, quality can be just as important as price. This information can help buyers make the right decision.”

Table of providers and satisfaction levels

Ombudsman Services

Matthew Vickers, chief executive of Ombudsman Services, which is approved by Ofcom to resolve broadband and phone complaints, said:

“For many people, broadband and phone access is an essential utility like energy, so it’s vital that providers offer good customer service and fix problems quickly when they do happen.

“Consumers can escalate unresolved broadband and phone complaints to us after eight weeks and, if their provider is signed up to our scheme, we will investigate. If we uphold the complaint, we will require the company to take action to put things right.

We are keen to work with communications providers to help them improve their complaint handling and customer service more generally, in order to raise standards across the industry.”

The future for telecoms complaint handling

The Ofcom report notes that the handling of customer complaints could be improved “across the industry”, with only half of those who make a complaint to any provider ending up happy with the result.

I’ve said for many years that the communications sector is the worst for communication! Companies make it difficult for people to contact them. For example, a few months ago I was trying to deal with something on Twitter with Virgin Media and was actually told to contact them during certain times of the day. The person responding couldn’t actually answer the simple question! Ridiculous!

And how about Vodafone, a huge multinational communications provider, which does not even have an email address available to reach its customer service department? It isn’t alone.

I regularly hear about the whole complaints process with any telecom provider being tedious. I’m yet to see or hear of anyone who has said that customer service from their provider has improved at all. Ever!

Further help

If you are experiencing a problem with your telecom provider or think you are likely to in future, then bookmark this page!

lap top on womanAll you need to know about complaining to telecom providers is full of links to different posts with lots of information and advice about various situations and what to do to get solutions.





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The Complaining Cow logo, complaints, consultancy, speaker, workshops and moreHelen Dewdney is The Complaining Cow and has the ear of many customers. She helps businesses improve customer complaint handling and customer service to improve complaint handling through customer perspectives and challenge to gain and retain customers. If you are interested in working with Helen see Services for a variety of innovative solutions to your business needs. You can contact her with your own ideas too of course!