Consumers Association of Penang

Giving voice to the little people...since 1970

How to write an effective complaint letter

If you can’t settle your problem by word of mouth, follow up with a letter or e-mail.

Below are three steps to writing letters of complaint:

Step 1:
Introduce the subject matter by referring directly to a reference or account number. The reader is left with no doubt that the writer has a specific complaint to make. Whether your complaint is about a defective product or an unsatisfactory service, put down the name and address of the person (if known) or shop which sold the product or provided the service. Include the date you bought or contracted the services supplied, as well as the receipt number.

Step 2:
Give specific details of the complaint. Keep to the point and mention only relevant facts when you give a brief description of your problem. Avoid personal remarks and insults. If the problem concerns a product, give its exact description including brand name, model number, serial number, grade, quantity or size, if it is not already mentioned in Step 1.

Step 3:
State the justification for the complaint and the redress expected. State the legal basis of your claim if you can. You can complain with greater confidence when you know the law is behind you. You can refer to previous correspondence and quotes, warranties and legal rights to back your case or claim. If the complaint concerns a product, don’t send the original receipt. Keep all original documents. Make photocopies and send these instead. Include copies of other documents like warranties, order forms, hire-purchase agreements, advertisements that might have some bearing on your complaint.

You should state what you expect: a replacement, or the free repair of a defective item or your money back. Give a time limit but set a reasonable deadline. If it’s a case of a simple refund, two weeks’ grace is usual.

Always keep a copy of your letter and a record of the copies of documents accompanying it in case you need to take further action.