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How To Write A Letter Of Complaint: Tips and Guidelines

January 13th, 2010

write-complaint-letter.jpgWhether we blame computers, human error, or a general decline in the quality of goods and services today, most of us have ample cause to register a complaint at some point. The usual procedure involves inquiries and phone calls that eventually require lodging a complaint in writing. For your letter to be as effective as possible, here are some guidelines that you can usefully follow.

1. Have a clear idea in your mind about what redress you expect. Be realistic and examine carefully whether you have any responsibility for the problem or the failure for it to be resolved. If you do, that might affect your strategy or even your legal rights. Nevertheless, pace yourself – if you’re making an initial statement of a legitimate complaint, it might not be the time and place to raise it.

2. Take advice. If you are dealing with a consumer issue, it’s very likely you can find an organization that will advise. They should be able to give you information on legal aspects, including the response time you can expect in terms of consumer law. If they advise you that the company (or other party) is in breach of a legal requirement, it can be useful to include that information in your letter.

3. Target the recipient. Sending your letter to the wrong person may result in delay. You might get a return letter instructing you to contact another department or it may be passed on from person to person within an organization, with a possibility of it getting lost along the way. If there’s a section for handling complaints, you might be okay but if not, sending several letters to different people or departments, specifying that you have copied it to other parties, should scupper that excuse.

4. Include full details. Again, you don’t want a return letter, requesting further information and creating further delay. As well as details of the problem, specify what you want to achieve and any relevant information about any action that has occurred so far. Include dates, costs, people you’ve spoken to about the problem (names, dates, times, content, progress). If necessary, include photocopies (never originals) of relevant documents and letters.

5. State that you require a response within a specified time. A response by return of post may be over-demanding, but seven working days is eminently reasonable (depending on the problem). It never harms to demand a reply in writing and committing a response to paper puts people on the spot.

6. Make sure your letter is clearly written, well organized and structured. You don’t want to create opportunities for misunderstanding. A focused letter shows that you are in command of the facts and on top of their dereliction of duty to their customers. Correct spelling, no typos, and good layout always help when you want to be taken seriously.

7. Keep your tone measured and professional. You may have good cause to be furious but ranting and raving won’t help and it may give them an opportunity to label you as ‘difficult’ (or worse) and an excuse to do the minimum to resolve your problem. They probably know the ropes better than you do and can embark on a passive-aggressive response routine that is still perfectly legal.

8. Never threaten. You can allude to taking further steps if the problem isn’t resolved, but resist intimidation, no matter how much the recipient deserves it. It might even be illegal. If you refer to taking matters further (for example, using legal means) make sure this is a viable option and that you fully intend to follow through. Unscrupulous individuals and companies will laugh you off if you threaten measures that they know are unrealistic or outlandish.

Many companies bank on the fact that people won’t persevere. If you have a genuine grievance, don’t give up. Why should you? If you don’t get a response keep writing, write to more people, write to more senior representatives and call on all the resources available (such as the aforementioned consumer organizations) to help fight in your corner. If your complaint is legitimate, remember you have the truth on your side.


This article on how to write a complaint letter was supplied to us by “Solo” of Constant Content.


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