How to Submit a Complaint that Matters

We’ve all had a bad experience with a business. Maybe so bad that we go on Facebook and post a poor rating on a business’s page or leave a bad Yelp review. But does that change anything? No, those sites are out for themselves. They need businesses on their platforms to pay for advertising. They are more likely to side with a business and remove your bad report if the business asks for a review.

Here is what you can do to make your voice heard: file your complaint with your state’s consumer protection office. Every state has one, and here is how to find it:

  • Look on your state’s Attorneys General’s website.
  • Search “consumer protection office state” and you should find it in the first few results.
  • Some counties and larger cities have their own offices, check for those as well.
  • USA.gov/state-consumer will help you find the office by state.
  • Some state industry regulatory agencies handle complaints specific to that industry. Insurance or food-service are two of the more common ones.

Before you file

Before you file your complaint, make sure you have all the information. The more detail you can provide, the better. Your complaint could help lead to an investigation and help your fellow consumers. Some states have a form you fill out. If not, usa.gov/complaint-letter-wizard has an easy-to-use form.

Things to include:

  • Names – yours, the business’s, and anyone you spoke to there
      
  • The full address of the business. Some forms ask for your address as well
      
  • A detailed description of your complaint. Don’t embellish; stick to facts.
      
  • Transaction dates and amounts
      
  • Contact information for you and the business
      
  • Any payments—including amounts and what for
      
  • Names of anyone you may have spoken to
      
  • How you may have attempted to resolve the dispute, including the names of people with whom you spoke
      
  • Some states allow you to attach supporting documents. If you have any receipts or paperwork that is relevant, attach a copy.

A few things to consider:

  • Your complaint might be public. If this is a concern, be sure to research before filing.
      
  • The consumer complaint office isn’t going to act on your behalf. They act on behalf of all consumers.
     
  • It could benefit you to contact a consumer law expert, especially if you’re concerned about making a public statement that could be used in court.
      
  • Consumer protection offices are not the place to rant about a business based on a bad experience. Slow service or a rude employee is not illegal. The poor service would have to be a result of discrimination or negligence.

In the end, if you want to protect yourself, help by protecting your fellow consumers. If there was a legitimate issue with a business, let your local consumer protection agency know. File the most detailed complaint you can. Contact a lawyer if it caused you any kind of harm. But don’t just rant about it on social media. However, if the service was good or if a company did something worthy of praise, post about it. It’s amazing how much positive reviews can help your local business succeed!