Make a complaint to a business

The information on this page, as well as sample complaint letters, is also available to download (PDF 600Kb)


Step 1: Know Your Rights

Step 2: Act Quickly

Step 3: Know Who to Contact

Step 4: Making the Initial Complaint

Step 5: Making a More Formal Complaint

Step 6: If You are Still Getting Nowhere


Step 1: Know Your Rights

Before starting to make a complaint, know what your consumer rights are under the law. We have lots of information in our Your rights section. You can also call our LoCall Helpline 1890 432 432 if you have a question about your rights.

Remember:

  • You have no rights under consumer law if the product is not faulty or you simply changed your mind.
  • A shop is entitled to proof of purchase, but this doesn't have to be the shop receipt. For example, you could show proof of purchase with a credit card statement.
  • If you accept a repair this repair must be permanent.

There is no redress for:

  • Faults that are due to misuse of the goods
  • Faults that are pointed out at the time of purchase
  • Superficial faults that should have been seen on reasonable examination of the goods

You need to check the goods when you are buying them to make sure there are no faults.

If you have a written contract or description of the goods or services you have bought, read it carefully. Your complaint will be more effective if you are familiar with the terms and conditions of your contract.

And remember, your statutory rights don't change just because you bought something in a sale.

Why are you complaining?

For example:

  • Was the product faulty?
  • Did it not fit the description given?
  • Was the service not carried out with proper care/not meet the terms of the contract?
  • Was it the way you were treated as a customer?

Know exactly what you want the business to do to sort out the problem.

Step 2: Act Quickly

Don't delay in making your complaint. If you do, the shop or service may take this as a sign that you accept the goods or service, and it may weaken your case if you take legal action against the supplier. If you use the goods for some time, or delay in making the complaint, you may only get a repair or to a partial refund.

There may also be a time limit on making certain types of complaints. For example, complaints about a package holiday must be made within 28 days of returning from the holiday.

Step 3: Know Who to Contact

Make sure you direct your complaint to the correct person.

Start by contacting the person in the company you originally dealt with, or the company's customer care department if it has one. A good business will have its own proper internal complaints procedures, and complaints are often resolved using these.

Ask to speak to a manager. There is no point in complaining to a person who may have no authority to put things right.

Give the company the opportunity to put things right. This may help to solve your problem more quickly and will stand to you if you need to take legal action.

Step 4: Making the Initial Complaint

Before making a complaint, think about what could be the best way of doing this.

You may find it more effective to make your complaint face-to-face or over the phone, rather than in a formal letter or email.

You may also think about complaining through social media, e.g. through Facebook or Twitter. Before deciding to make a complaint on social media it could be useful to spend a few minutes taking a look at other consumers' experiences when making a complaint against a business in this way. 

Be careful when sharing personal details, such as account information. Depending on the complaint, you may need to provide these details for your issue to be addressed. As social media channels, such as Twitter, limit the amount of information you can provide, you may end up contacting the business many times, instead of just once if you complain by letter,email or over the phone. 

Always keep notes of what happened, in the sequence that it happened. Include dates of phone calls or other conversations, who you spoke to and what was said.

When making your complaint, remember to:

  • Be polite but firm. You may feel angry, but an effective complaint is based on presenting yourself as a reasonable person rather than an unreasonable one
  • Explain your problem, keep to the facts and know your rights
  • Tell them what you want them to do for your complaint to be resolved. Focus on the action you want the supplier to take rather than on your anger or disappointment.

For example, make it clear that you are looking for a replacement, a repair, a refund, completion of an unfinished service, or simply an apology.

Remember that while these are all options, the law does not specify who chooses the form of redress. Therefore it is up to you to negotiate this with the supplier.

In the case of a product, a shop may suggest you send it back to the manufacturer. But if the shop has sold you faulty goods, under consumer law it's up to them to deal with your problem.

The shop cannot say it is not responsible and you need to make it clear that even if you go to the manufacturer, you will go back to the shop if you have further problems. Alternatively you can insist that the shop deals with the manufacturer directly on your behalf.

Many problems can be sorted out quickly and simply at the counter or over the phone. But if you are still not satisfied with their response, you may need to make a more formal complaint.

Step 5: Making a More Formal Complaint

If your problem has gone on for some time and you are still getting nowhere, you should make a more formal complaint in writing, either in a letter or by email. You can use our sample complaint letters to help you put your complaint in writing.

Hold on to all information about your complaint, including copies of letters, emails, photographs, invoices, receipts, cheque stubs, quotations or contracts.

Always make sure your letter, or email, is sent to the right person or department,  so ask for the name and address of their most senior person you can contact who deals with written complaints.

When writing your complaint, keep the following in mind:

  • If possible, type the letter, or write it clearly and neatly
  • Try to keep the message short, clear and to the point
  • Clearly set out the history of your case: the date of purchase and area of concern, who you spoke to, explain what the problem is.
  • Give a clear description of the goods/service so it is easily identifiable by the business: give the serial numbers, batch codes and any other descriptions.
  • State your rights under the legislation
  • Say what you want them to do for your complaint to be resolved.
  • Give them a reasonable timescale to resolve the problem before you will consider other options.
  • Attach copies of any relevant documentation.
  • We strongly recommend you send your letter by registered post, or attach a read receipt to your email so that you will have a record of delivery.

Step 6: If You are Still Getting Nowhere

Most complaints are settled without needing to take legal action. But if you are not satisfied after making your complaint, you may want to take your complaint further. If your complaint involves an amount up to €2,000, you may be able to take your case to court yourself through the Small Claims procedure, which is designed to be simple and relatively quick.

For bigger amounts or for personal injury and certain other claims, you may need to contact a solicitor.

Some services are covered by ombudsmen or regulators, such as the Financial Services Ombudsman, the Pensions Ombudsman or the Taxi Regulator. Generally, you can't engage an ombudsman until you've first exhausted the complaints procedure for that sector.

If you are not sure which regulator, authority or ombudsman is the relevant one, contact your local Citizens Information Centre, which can give you advice on who to contact.

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