How do I make a consumer complaint?

If you are not satisfied with a purchase or a service you paid for, you can complain. In fact, it is your responsibility as a consumer to complain about poor services and products.

An effective complaint will benefit you and others, as well as encourage the company to be more responsible.

You have a valid complaint if:

  • The product or service failed to perform its intended function, and
  • You have taken the proper care and maintenance and complied with the conditions of the warranty.

Make a Phone Call

Usually, your first step is a phone call to the company. Before you make the call, write down details about the product or service and your complaint - for example, time, date, names and titles of the people you spoke to - and collect documents such as warranties, guarantees, receipts, and bills.

Explain your specific problem and details about the purchase, delivery, and service calls. Try to negotiate a satisfactory solution and get a specific promise and a specific completion date. If the problem is not resolved, ask for someone who has more authority to make decisions, such as a manager. Do not hang up until you think you accomplished all that you can over the telephone.

Write a Letter

If the problem is not resolved to your satisfaction, write a letter to the company.

Your letter should include 3 sections:

  • Explain the problem and supply all the necessary details - Service provided, make, brand name and serial number of a product, price, date, place of purchase, name of salesperson, date the problem was discovered, conditions of the warranty, and so on.
  • Make your request - Describe what the company can do to fix the problem (for example, give you a refund or repair the product) and specify a date that you want this (for example, 2 - 3 weeks from the date of the letter).
  • Explain your plans - Describe any further action you intend to take if the company not satisfy your request. For example, you might contact the Better Business Bureau (BBB), Competition Bureau or Small Claims Court.

File a Complaint

If you still do not get a satisfactory response from the company, you can contact a third party to file a complaint. Here are some examples of organizations that will take your complaints:

Small Claims Court

If you cannot resolve your dispute, and there is money or personal property involved, your next step might be Small Claims Court. Consult with your local Small Claims Court office about the procedure before filing a claim.

Many community agencies can help you with filing a complaint. To find help, go to Services Near Me and search for "community legal clinic" in your area.

For More Information

  • Canadian Consumer Handbook - Information about many consumer products and how to complain effectively. From the Office of Consumer Affairs at Industry Canada.
  • Complaint Roadmap - This online tool will help you figure out each step you can take to make a consumer complaint. From Industry Canada's Office of Consumer Affairs.
  • Consumer Protection Ontario - This website has important information about consumer protection and how to protect yourself from scams. From the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services.
Last updated: April 18, 2016 4001257