It is our experience that even the best run businesses will occasionally receive customer complaints and queries. Our best advice is that you respond as soon as practicable but avoid being rushed into making a quick judgement.
We can provide you with advice as to whether a consumer complaint is justified in law but it is ultimately your decision as to what action you should take. However if you persistently fail to act properly when dealing with consumer complaints, or the numbers are excessive relative to the size and type of your business, we will seek to require you to meet your obligations and/or review your suitability for membership.
Very often consumers approach us or Citizens Advice or another agency to check their rights before speaking to the business. Generally we will ask consumers to talk to you if they have not already done so as we expect you to resolve the problem without our intervention.
However, if the matter is very complex, or perhaps the consumer does not understand the advice given or is unable to act on their own behalf, we may contact you on behalf of your customer.
Failure to respond appropriately to customer complaints will be regarded as a breach of the Terms and Conditions of membership.
We will expect you to respond to customer complaints in an appropriate manner and to maintain a suitable record of complaints received and actions taken. The manner in which you respond, how you respond, the records kept and so on will depend on the size and type of your business.
If you are a member of a trade or professional body, state that you comply with a Code of Practice or are regulated by a statutory body such as the Financial Conduct Authority, then you should at all times comply with their relevant customer complaints procedures.
However, at a minimum, we will expect you to demonstrate that you:
1. Record all complaints received
2. As a minimum acknowledge all complaints within 5 working days
3. Actively seek to resolve complaints, and do not actively attempt to limit or undermine a customer’s rights
4. Record outcomes
We will expect that complaints are resolved promptly but we also recognise that finding an outcome acceptable to all parties can sometimes take some while. However, if you are unable to reach a solution you should inform your customer, preferably in writing, stating what you are prepared to do and giving a date by which the customer can accept this offer.
In general we would anticipate that most complaints would be resolved within 28 days; if this proves to be insufficient time then it would be good practice to update your customer on progress, identify what you are prepared to offer and if possible give a date by which you expect to be able to reach a solution.
Help Available From Trading Standards
We may offer you advice on how to respond to very complex individual customer complaints but would expect you to deal with more routine matters without our help.
You can refer customers to us by getting them to fill in the complaints form on the website, or via the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133 (please try to ensure they mention you are a Buy With Confidence business) but again we would expect you to be able to resolve routine matters.
We may agree to offer to mediate between the parties involved but unless we specifically say so this will not be a legally binding arbitration service.
Information is also available via the Trading Standards Institute’s Business Companion website.
If your business has a number of employees and deals with large numbers of customers then you should consider nominating one or two specific members of staff to deal with consumer complaints. If you do this it is good practice to encourage all other staff to acknowledge complaints, take basic details and be able to say who will contact the customer back and roughly when.
Should you require advice on suitable record keeping and processes please ask us.
It is good practice to periodically review the nature of complaints received to see if there are things that regularly cause problems. You can then look to solve the cause of the problem rather than dealing with each individual matter which will save both you and your customers’ time and money.
In the event that you are unable to resolve a complaint and either you or your customer decides to take the matter to court we will expect you to comply with any subsequent judgement.