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UK European Consumer Centre

International Women's Day 2018

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The UK ECC is urging more women to complain when it comes to their consumer rights. 

Our stats show that fewer women contact us when they have a problem with goods or services in the EU.  Only 28% of our complainants are women. 

Andy Allen, UK European Consumer Centre (UK ECC) service director, said: “We want to use the approach of International Women’s Day to reach out to female consumers in the UK.


“Our message to women everywhere in the UK is that International Women’s Day is YOUR day and you must use it to truly make a positive difference for women. This includes making sure that you know your consumer rights and know how to complain.


“It is generally understood that women don’t use legal advice services the same as men do - certainly our figures bear that out. Maybe men aren’t so good at resolving their problems without advice: who knows if that’s true or not?

“Everybody needs a little help sometimes and we want to use International Women’s Day as an opportunity to tell women that help is out there: they’ve just got to ask to use it.” 

Complaining to a company when something has gone wrong with the purchase of goods or services doesn’t have to be daunting.  If your efforts to resolve the complaint fail after trying to call or email the company then you can always write to them.  Despite the obvious fact that writing and sending a letter takes longer, we do find that the formal approach holds more impact in resolving your complaint. Writing a complaint letter is not an art form but if you stick to some basic rules you can write a well worded complaint easily. 

Continue reading for the UK ECC’s guide on how to write a good complaint letter.

Getting Started

The first thing to remember when writing a complaint letter is to keep it concise.  There might be a lot of details to the case but it is important to keep to the core facts.  If a trader receives two A4 pages of a complaint the chances are that they won’t read through the whole thing.

We recommend starting by putting the words “Formal complaint” in bold at the top of the page.  If it is a large company with a complaints department this should trigger their in-house complaints process.

You should begin your letter by setting out the problem, using dates, amounts spent and any reference numbers in order for the trader to identify you and your purchase.

Explain the problem

Move on to explain the nature of the problem but keep to the core facts.  For example; ‘on the 24 January 2017 I purchased a bicycle from your website.  On the 6 February 2017, the day after delivery, I noticed there was a fault with the bicycle’.

If you have any evidence such as pictures or a statement from a professional third party then you should enclose copies of this as it might be required by the trader to handle your complaint.  Send copies only as it is not a guarantee that originals will be returned.

Lead into closing the letter

Next, let the trader know what outcome you want.  Whether this is a repair, a replacement or a refund.  You may want a replacement or refund but might have to accept a repair of the item based upon what rights you have.

Once the complaint has been set out we recommend giving the trader a reasonable time to respond, we find anything from 14 – 30 days sufficient to answer.  It may not be reasonable to expect the trader to receive, read, investigate and refund you in a couple of days.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

There has recently been a change in law that has seen the creation of lots of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) bodies.  These bodies may be able to help if the trader is willing to go through their mediation service.  If the trader is not willing to use ADR it is still worth mentioning it in your complaint letter so that if you end up going to court you can show that you have ruled out every other option.

Last but certainly not least, wherever possible send your letter by recorded delivery! The added impact of the trader having to sign for the letter and reading it means it is less likely to be overlooked and with the bonus of being able to prove the trader has received the letter is worth the small cost of sending it.

To find some template letter examples please visit the template letters section of our website.

For more information about purchasing online, or any other consumer query please contact us on 01268 886690 or visit our website.

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