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How to Make a Consumer Complaint

Delia Rickard
7th May, 2016

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission receives about 160,000 complaints and enquires a year. Thousands of complaints are about retailing and problems with returning products. We also hear about businesses behaving unfairly as well as troubles with service providers. Make your complaint count by following these steps.

Step 1 – Contact the seller or service provider

As soon as possible, contact the business to explain your problem and the outcome you want. In many cases, a simple phone call or visit can fix things. If you have a faulty product, the business may ask you for proof of purchase and discuss whether it is a minor or major problem to determine if a repair, replacement, or refund is required. If you are not sure about your refund rights check out the ACCC’s problem solver.

If the first approach fails, it is a good idea to put your complaint in writing—that way, the seller is clearly aware of the problem and what you want, and you also have a record of your contact. Check out our tips on writing a complaint letter and the things you should include.

Step 2 – Contact the ACCC or another agency

If you are still having difficulty resolving a problem, you may want to seek assistance. The best place to go will depend on your circumstances. For example, your local state fair trading agency can deal with issues involving a tradesperson or a real estate agent and the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman is there to help with billing disputes. The ACCC publishes a list of other helpful agencies and regulators.

You can contact the ACCC online. All complaints to the ACCC are carefully considered, but we are not a complaint handling body and cannot pursue every one. We focus on the most harm to competition and consumers and we publish a list of factors we consider when deciding to investigate.

Step 3 – Take legal action

You may consider getting your own independent legal advice. Your local community legal centre, legal aid office, or your lawyer could give you some advice. You may be entitled to take your complaint to the small claims court or tribunal in your state or territory. For disputes involving large sums of money, you may be able to take private legal action. Make sure that you get advice first, as legal action can be expensive and there is no guarantee that you will be successful.

Delia Rickard is Deputy Chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

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