How to complain and claim compensation

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how to complainWhether you have a grievance with a retailer, doctor, lawyer, adviser, bank, internet provider, energy supplier, or many other companies or tradespeople, there is probably a free service that can tell you how to complain about them and, where relevant, claim compensation.

Some people actually want to hear your complaints. Not only that, they have the power to resolve them.

I’m not talking about claims management companies, which can take 25% of your claim in fees. There are three better ways:

1. Look for an ombudsman

If you complain to a company and follow its complaints procedure, but you’re still not satisfied, see if an ombudsman can help.

Ombudsmen tell you how to complain, review complaints, judge what’s fair for both sides, and make rulings. If one rules in your favour, you can claim compensation and the company must compensate you.

If the ombudsman rules against you, you’re still allowed to take your complaint to the County Court.

Here are the main ombudsman services:

Each ombudsman’s website states the time limits for making a complaint, which might be as little as three months from complaining to the company involved.

It will also tell you the procedure you must go through before it will consider a complaint, which might involve using other arbitration services first.

2. Look for free advisory services

Some advisory services will help you understand your rights, and tell you how to complain about goods or services you have received.

Some will also help settle disputes. The Pensions Advisory Service will give you advice on state, company and personal pensions, and it will try to help you settle disputes too – although not with state pensions.

To be confusing, some advice services that call themselves ‘ombudsmen’ are not official ombudsmen, such as The Furniture Ombudsman. They can still provide useful services to resolve disputes, however.

Citizens’ Advice and car accident lawyers near you can also help you to resolve your complaints and some lawyers offer a free half-hour consultation.

3. Look for codes of conduct

There are dozens of industries or trades with codes of conduct. Codes of conduct are legally binding on all companies signed up to them.

Many of these codes contain complaints procedures that include using independent conciliation services to try and find a resolution.

If that fails, most codes allow for an independent arbitration service to make a ruling. Unlike ombudsmen, rulings from arbitration schemes are usually legally binding on you, as well as the company.

The motor industry’s code of practice for services and repair, for example, states that after an arbitrator makes a decision: “There are only limited circumstances where a case already considered under the terms of the Arbitration Act can then proceed to court”.

However, you could choose to take the company to court rather than go through the arbitration scheme.

Some schemes are mandatory for all companies in the industry, such as the Consumer Code for Home Builders. However, the arbitration service for this code and some others costs the customer a fee, in this case £100.