How to Protect Your Legal Rights with a Complaint Letter

Written by Christi Hayes and Fact Checked by The Law Dictionary Staff  

Complaints against retailers, merchants, and other providers of goods and services can arise for a variety of reasons. A customer may feel that she was overcharged on her cable bill, for example, while another customer may believe that a car dealership misled him about the quality and specifications of a new vehicle. Complaints can range from being dissatisfied with the level of customer service received to outright fraud. While it is usually a good idea to try to resolve a complaint by first speaking directly with the company, such as by calling or emailing them, if the issue does not get resolved then writing a complaint letter could help. Here are the legal benefits of writing a complaint letter and how to do so.

Legal protection

Writing a complaint letter is a serious step. It shows the company that you are very dissatisfied with how they have handled your concern and that you are now willing to put those concerns down on paper. By putting your complaint in writing you are creating a written record of the complaint. Having a written record of the complaint could provide you with legal protection in the future. For example, if the issue escalates to small claims court then having written proof of the complaint could show that you took reasonable steps to have the issue resolved, which then went unaddressed by the company. Simply complaining to a company in person or over the phone provides less verifiable evidence that you tried to resolve your complaint in a reasonable manner.

Writing an effective complaint letter

To enjoy the ful legal protection that a complaint letter may provide, however, you need to write your own letter with care. Your letter should be clear about what the problem is and what you expect to be done to remedy it. Include whatever information may be relevant to resolving your complaint, such as serial numbers, the address of the business, and the names of individuals at the business you previously spoke to. You should also provide copies of receipts and warrants, if necessary. Give a firm deadline of when you expect the company to take action. Finally, do not write a letter that could be perceived as threatening, harassing, or sarcastic in any way as such a letter may only harm your case later on.

Consumers have a number of rights when dealing with sellers and writing a complaint letter is just one tool that consumers can use to uphold those rights. By writing an effective complaint letter, consumers help protect themselves legally and stand a better chance of having their issue remedied faster.

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