New HampshireDepartment of JusticeOffice of the Attorney General

Consumer Protection BureauConsumer Sourcebook – Remedies: Writing a Complaint Letter

Sometimes a letter of complaint is the best route to achieve your goal.

Preface | User's Guide | Table of Contents | Print Sourcebook Portable Document Format Symbol

Handling your own complaints can be a very easy process. If you are dissatisfied with a product or service, a fast and efficient way to get your complaint resolved is to express this dissatisfaction to the retailer or the manufacturer. Refer to the section on Remedies: Effective Negotiation to help you with that method. You may also need to write a letter explaining the problems to the company. The following are suggestions on how to write an effective letter of complaint.

Before You Begin

Check to see if the company has a toll-free 800, 888 or 877 number for its customer service department. Look on the package labeling, in the toll-free number directory (available at your local library) or call the toll-free number directory assistance (1-800-555-1212). If there is a customer service toll-free number, follow the suggestions in Remedies: Effective Negotiation when talking with the service representative.

Sometimes a letter of complaint is the best route to achieve your goal. Check the product label or warranty for the name and address of the manufacturer. Also, your local library might have reference manuals listing corporate addresses and officers, such as Standard & Poor's Register of Corporations, Directors and Executives, which lists 37,000 American business firms. If you have the brand name but not the manufacturer, your local library may have the Thomas Register of American Manufacturers, which lists product lines and their manufacturers. The Thomas Register can also be accessed online (you will be asked to complete a free registration to search). You should direct your letter either to the customer service department or to the company's president.

A complaint letter is important because it:

  • Puts your complaint on record with the company
  • Helps preserve any legal rights you may have in the situation
  • Ensures that the company knows your side of the story
  • Helps to get government agencies involved in your case, if it becomes necessary, and can alert the agencies to any questionable business practices that the company may have
  • Can lay the foundation for any future legal case and help you in drafting later letters, if you need to write more than one
  • Lets the company know you are serious about pursuing your complaint (some businesses may ignore your complaint unless they see something in writing)

What to Say

There are some important points to cover in writing your letter:

  • Include your name, address and phone numbers at home and work.
  • If it is not possible to type your letter, be sure your handwriting is easy to read.
  • Make your letter brief and to the point. The letter should contain all the important facts about your purchase. First describe your purchase including any information you can give about the product or service such as serial or model numbers or specific type of service. Be sure to include the date you made your purchase and location the location of the store, if appropriate.
  • State what you feel should be done about the problem and how long you are willing to wait to get the problem resolved. Make sure that you are reasonable in requesting a specific action.
  • Include copies of any documents regarding your problem, such as receipts, warranties, repair orders, contracts and so forth.
  • Be reasonable, not angry or threatening, in your letter. Remember, the person reading your letter may not be directly responsible for your problem, and can possibly help resolve it.
  • Finally, keep copies of your complaint letter and all related documents for your own records and you may want to send a copy of the letter to the Consumer Protection Bureau (33 Capital Street, Concord, NH 03301).

A sample letter Rich Text Format symbol appears on the last page of this chapter.

If you are unsuccessful in getting your complaints resolved directly with the company and must contact other sources for assistance, refer to your letter. Remember that if you have to contact other sources such as the New Hampshire Consumer Protection Bureau, the Better Business Bureau, or a trade association, be sure to give information about what you have done thus far to get your complaint resolved.

Where To Go If You Have A Problem

The NH Consumer Protection Bureau has a mediation program and is willing to assist consumers with their disputes with businesses:

NH Consumer Protection Bureau
NH Department of Justice
33 Capitol Street
Concord, NH 03301-6397

The Better Business Bureau offers help with filing a complaint through its website. Or you can contact the local office. You can file a complaint with the BBB regarding a business, a charity, or about a new can:

Better Business Bureau
48 Pleasant Street
Concord, NH 03301
603-224-1991 or 603-228-3789 or 603-228-3844

Click on "file a complaint"

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New Hampshire Department of Justice
33 Capitol Street | Concord, NH | 03301
Telephone: 603-271-3658