Your rights – adding extra punch

Your rights sit at your strong right hand and help you land a tougher punch. Quoting the law, showing you know who a particular industry’s regulator is and demonstrating you can find your way around both internal and external complaints’ procedures will make most companies break out in a cold sweat.
At the time of writing an overhaul of consumer law has been promised but in the meantime there’s an assortment of existing legislation, as well as regulators – not to mention the option of pursuing a small claim through the courts.
But you need to take a strategic approach. There’s no point in coming out all guns blazing when a politely worded letter would do the trick just as well. Plus, you need to work through your options in order. For example, not giving a company the opportunity to put things right may actually weaken your case in law and most regulators won’t step in until you have exhausted a firm’s internal complaints procedure.
But nearly every complaint should broadly follow a similar pattern – the combination of tactics and body blows outlined below that will help you stand up to any organisation that’s trying to take you for a ride.

  1. Make a complaint in person, or by phone as soon as you can, resorting to email and letter if you’re not satisfied or compensated.
  2. If 1. doesn’t work, or you feel you’re being stalled, or given the run around, or not being offered an adequate resolution, formally request the organisation move to its official complaints procedure. This should include a clear set of steps and deadlines. Make sure you understand them and keep the company to them.
  3. Once the internal process is exhausted and if you’re still not satisfied, you can approach the organisation that regulates that particular industry or service. Again, you may threaten to move to this stage if you feel the internal process described above is being dragged out or is being approached in a half-hearted manner.
  4. In some cases and depending on the amount of money involved you may consider the courts. But keep in mind that anything above the small claims court can be very expensive to pursue and no win no fee still comes with costs.
  5. Listen to your inner Money Fight Club voice. Have you pushed things as far as you can or are you in danger of wimping out too soon? If you answer “yes” to the second part of the question or “no” to the first part, stiffen your sinews and have another go. Start or join a campaign. Send a letter to a good consumer rights page on a national newspaper, or contact a consumer radio programme.

Yo! You got rights.