This is guest bog from Lewis Shand Smith, chief ombudsman at Ombudsman Services, exploring the complaints landscape in the UK, and offering advice on how WI members can find their voice when it comes to making a complaint.
Last year, there were 52 million complaints about products and services according to new research from Ombudsman Services.
However, the third annual Consumer Action Monitor – the most comprehensive multi-sector survey of its kind in the UK – found there were a staggering 66 million complaints not acted upon, indicating that we’re only really seeing the tip of the iceberg.
Having your wrong put right
Consumers are ignoring millions of problems each year because they would rather suffer in silence than go through the perceived hassle of complaining – but it’s not as complex and time-consuming as you might think.
If you’ve ever had an issue with a retailer or your energy or communications provider then you’re not alone. A quarter of all complaints in the UK relate to an issue with a retailer, with faulty products the most common cause of dissatisfaction amongst consumers. The most problematic sectors were telecommunications and energy.
Whatever your age or issue, you shouldn’t have to put up with slow broadband or shoddy customer service. All consumers have the right to complain and a right to independent redress if the company you complain to doesn’t help.
An ombudsman covers each of these sectors, which provide free, quick and simple ways to reach a resolution.
As a result, we’ve prepared a number of helpful tips below to help you become a better complainer if you have a problem with a product or service you’ve purchased:
How to make your complaints heard
1. Firstly identify what you want to achieve, have a clear idea of what it is you want to achieve from complaining. Would you be happy with an apology, the wrong put right, or do you want financial compensation?
2. Don’t get emotional – keep your anger in check and don’t get mad. Be assertive without being aggressive
3. Don’t be embarrassed – it’s your right to complain if you’re not satisfied
4. Admit your part in the problem if you have any fault
5. Address one complaint at a time, ensure what you say is clear and fair
6. Keep records of all correspondence, paperwork, bills and receipts, if asked to send them anywhere make sure you send photocopies and keep originals
7. If you’re not getting results complaining directly to the company, identify the person or organisation who has the power to make changes and help
8. If your complaint has not been resolved quickly (normally within eight weeks), you can take your complaint to an organisation like Ombudsman Services.
Changes to the law that will help you
In July 2015, new legislation come into force requiring all businesses in the UK to offer their consumers access to independent redress for any unresolved complaints. If they aren’t signed up to an alternative dispute resolution scheme, like Ombudsman Services, they must explain this to their customers.
It’s not compulsory for all companies to belong to an ADR scheme, but it shows that the company values customer service. Tread carefully if you decide to buy a product or service from a company that doesn’t have an independent way of resolving your complaints.