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Planning Retirement Online

Who to Complain to

It can sometimes be difficult to decide who it's best to complain to, especially if our first complaint has got nowhere and we want to escalate it to someone else. In fact, there are numerous routes we can go down but it's a case of knowing the best and most effective in any given situation that is the problem.

Of course, if we are complaining about something that is happening at the time, such as poor service in a store or a restaurant or from a call centre if you're phoning, then we complain to the person we are dealing with and who is not providing the service. If we go about it properly (for some thoughts on this, read the How to Complain page in the Guide) then in most circumstances they will rectify the situation. If they can't or won't then the next step is to ask to see or speak to the manager. If the manager fails to meet our expectations then we need to think about who to approach next and there are some thoughts below.

If we're complaining about something that has already occurred then we'll probably go to the customer service department which, these days, will probably be a call centre. If the contact in customer services doesn't resolve the issue then we'll almost certainly ask to speak to their manager, as described above. It's when the manager also fails to meet our expectations that we need to decide to whom we are going to direct our complaint. We want to spend the least time on it, with the minimum hassle and maximum reward, so directing our complaint to the right place is important.

Here are some of the options that are available:

1. Most reputable organisations have a recognised complaints or disputes procedure. It may be that when we speak to a manager he or she will instigate the procedure. If this is the case we should be patient and wait for the results. If we are still not satisfied it is worth saying at this point that we have decided to take our complaint to a higher authority. This in itself may be sufficient to get them to take it seriously. Threatening to write to the Managing Director or Chief executive will often have the desired effect.

2. If we still don't get satisfaction, however, we will need to take our complaint upwards. We can ask the organisation concerned who is their relevant independent ombudsman or adjudicator. There is also information on this at the How To Complain website. Alternatively, we can go to our local Citizens' Advice Bureau or Trading Standards Office for advice. Some ombudsmen or executive agencies such as Oftel or Ofgem will take up complaints for us.Complaining for Justice: Knowing Your Rights as a Consumer and How to Get Even Not Mad

3. If we are complaining to shops or restaurants, for example, it may be that the best body to complain to is the local council from whom they may lease the premises or to whom they are licensed.

4. Finally, if all else fails, we may need to instigate legal proceedings. This may mean going to the small claims court or seeking arbitration. Go to How To Complain for advice or look on the Office of Fair Trading website.

5 If we really don't seem to be making any progress, then we can go to Gov.uk and contact them by phone or email through the website. Alternatively, if it's a trader with whom we have the dispute, they may belong to a trade body or be accredited to a scheme such as TrustMark or LAATSN (the local trader scheme). If so, contact them and they will have a clear complaints process that we can follow.

Guide to Complaining links

Complaining can, at worst, be a very time-consuming business. What starts off as a simple complaint can, if we don't get satisfaction quickly, turn into a marathon. Some organisations recognise this and delay things deliberately so that we lose the will and the patience to carry on.

If we feel that we have a genuine complaint we should not be put off unless we really cannot afford the time that it takes. We don't need to be grumpy old people to get what we feel we should be getting from an organisation. On the other hand, let's not become grumpy old people for the sake of it.

So read the rest of the Guide to find out how to be as effective as possible when the need arises to assert your rights as a consumer. If you have any hints or tips that you would like to share in order to make us all better at complaining, please do so through the feedback form or by going to our Forum.

This Guide is written by Retirement Specialist Dave Sinclair supported by members of the LaterLife team. As well as writing on retirement matters Dave is Training Director at LaterLife and responsible for the content and continuous improvement of LaterLife's Retirement Courses.
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