Ken Paxton

What to Do if You Have a Consumer Complaint

This office accepts complaints against legitimate and fraudulent businesses. When the complaint involves a legitimate business, you can follow the steps outlined on this page to try and resolve your complaint. A legitimate business is one that has a physical location that it is not trying to conceal and a telephone number listed in telephone directories. It advertises its address and contact information. It has a history, a future, and a reputation to protect.

Start with the Business

First try to work directly with the business. Take your problem to the salesperson, manager or the company's customer service representative. Most problems are resolved at this level.

With a legitimate business, always remember that you, the customer, have leverage. Business management values customer good will. So always start by communicating your problem to the business.

If an employee will not or cannot address your problem, ask to speak to a manager. Be calm and polite. Assume the business will want to help. Clearly state your problem. Very often, the business will make you an offer to set the problem right.

Try to be clear about what the problem is. Is the product not what you were led to expect? Is the product defective or broken? Was the product incomplete or a service not fully provided?

If you cannot get satisfaction from the manager, consider whether the business is a franchise or branch office. You might get results by contacting the corporate headquarters. Try sending a well written letter stating the problem. Attach copies (not originals!) of receipts and other documentation to support your case.

When the Business Won't Help

If the business will not resolve a problem directly, you can file a complaint online with the Texas Attorney General, the Better Business Bureau, or the Federal Trade Commission.

Many industries and professions are licensed and regulated. In addition to complaining to the Attorney General, FTC and BBB, you should complain to the licensing or regulatory authority. They accept and review complaints. The professionals they license must answer complaints in order to remain in good standing.

The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation provides Texas license information on its home page. Many professionals ( e.g., barbers, electricians) are licensed by TDLR itself. Others (such as doctors) are regulated by specialized regulatory agencies (doctors, for example, are licensed by the Texas Medical Board).

Writing an Effective Complaint

The complaint should explain in detail, with documentation, what the problem is, who it is with, and what you have done to try and resolve the complaint. In particular it should:

  1. Identify the business. Include the name and current address of the business.
  2. Describe the problem. Describe as completely as you can the problem with the product or service you have purchased. Were you told something that was untrue? Describe what you were told and how it was untrue. Is it defective? Explain what is wrong. Did the business refuse to honor a warranty? Explain what needs repair and include a photocopy of the warranty.
  3. Include photocopies. Always include photocopies of documents relevant to your complaint receipts, warranties, both sides of cancelled checks, contracts, etc. Do not send originals. Only send copies.

Credit Card Purchases

In a credit card purchase dispute, the card issuer may credit your account and charge the item back to the business - if you follow certain steps.

  1. Write to your credit card issuer at the address for errors or inquiries found on your billing statement.
  2. Include vital information such as your name and account number, the date and amount of the disputed transaction and the business name and address.
  3. Describe the dispute. Explain in detail actions you have taken in good faith to resolve the complaint, and why you feel the business should not be paid.
  4. Send photocopies of any papers or other documents you believe relate to the transaction. Do not send originals!

The business must then try to collect the disputed amount directly from you. You or your attorney may wish to consult the federal "Truth-in-Lending" regulations (1 2 C,F.R. 226.12 and 226.13).

Company Moved or Out of Business

Perhaps the most frustrating consumer complaint is one against a company that is out of business or that has moved without leaving a forwarding address. Even agencies that assist consumers may not have the resources to find these companies.

Businesses in Texas are required to register with the Secretary of State. You can contact the SOS to find out the name of the registered agent for the business.

In some rare instances, consumers may recover some of their money if the company has filed bankruptcy. To have any chance, you must file a "proof of claim. " Obtain a claim form from the clerk of the Federal District Court in which the business has filed for bankruptcy, fill it out, then return it to the clerk. Bankruptcy cases can be very complex, so you may want to hire an attorney to help you - especially if your claim is large.