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How do you file a consumer complaint?

Keyboard with complaint button.
Keyboard with complaint button. Stock image from iStock/Getty Images.

Have you ever done this? You’ve signed a contract with a gym that you instantly regret or you bought an item that was broken and the merchant won’t issue you a refund.

Don’t you just hate when that happens? Sure you do. However, getting angry often doesn’t solve much. What can you actually do about it?

On the road to filing a consumer complaint, you should go through these steps:

Step 1: Know this information before you make a complaint

You can’t just make a complaint without reading your receipt or contract. You need to understand what the refund/exchange policy is, and what you agreed to in the contract – even if you didn’t read the contract beforehand.

For example, you signed a gym contract. Two months into the contract you decide you want out, because you are barely using the membership. What does your contract say? Does it say you are locked in for a year? If it does, you may have little recourse unless you can claim misrepresentation.

You also want to check for a “cooling off” period. This is a means of an out of a contract. Usually you have only a handful of days to decide if you want to remain in the contract though, so look at the contract and see if it has that clause.

Step 2: Keep evidence of the transaction

You are going to have to prove a transaction took place. Things like: receipts, contracts, letters, order forms and other documents from the company must be kept by you. You will have to submit those to the complaints body.

It’s always best to have original documents.

Step 3: Make contact with the business

Before you make a formal complaint with a provincial complaints body, first try to settle the issue with the business directly. Call the company and see if you can come to a satisfactory resolution with them.

If that doesn’t work:

Step 4: File a complaint with the company

Write a complaint letter to a manager, director or even the president of the company to resolve the dispute.

If that still doesn’t work:

Step 5: File a formal complaint

The thing you must keep in mind on the road to filing a formal complaint, is that you need to keep records, not only of the transaction, but of all the action you took, all the calls you made and all the letters you wrote to the company.

Your case will be much stronger if you can show that you tried to resolve the issue, but the company was being unreasonable.

Depending on what section of business you are dealing with, whether car insurance, a gym, or a retailer, your complaints body will be provincially/territorially regulated.

The government-regulated complaint bodies will ask you to fill out a complaint form and include all pertinent details and evidence in your possession.

Read More:

Office of Consumer Affairs

Consumer Information Additional Resources