How to make a complaint
When you buy goods or services you have rights and protections under Irish and EU consumer law. However, things can go wrong after buying something and you may want to complain to the seller.
If you have a problem with a product or service, or you feel you were treated unfairly or misled, you should:
- Check that you have proof of purchase
- Always go back to the seller first
- Try to sort the problem with the seller as quickly as possible - a delay could impact on the outcome you get (for example you might only be entitled to a repair instead of a refund)
If you cannot resolve the problem directly, you can get help and advice from various consumer protection organisations. You also have other formal options to help resolve a dispute with the seller, including the small claims procedure.
This document explains the steps to take to resolve your general consumer complaints. See ‘Further information’ below for help with complaints for specific sectors or topics.
How to check I have a case against the seller
Before you make a complaint to the seller, you should:
- Find out about your rights
- Make sure you have a valid reason to complain
- Make sure you have proof of purchase
- Gather documentation and evidence of the problem
- Decide the outcome you want
Find out about your rights
Having a good understanding of your rights under consumer law before you complain, will help the process go more smoothly. You might have a better chance of resolving your problem if you are able to say which of your rights the seller has breached (parts of the law the seller fails to meet).
You can read more about consumer laws.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) also has more information about your consumer rights.
Make sure you have a valid reason to complain
Before you complain, you need to check whether the seller is responsible for putting the problem right.
You need to check that you have a valid complaint. This means that there is a law that gives you grounds to make a complaint. You can check if you have a valid complaint by reading our documents on your rights as a consumer in Ireland and consumer rights in the EU.
It is not always straightforward to work out whether you have a valid reason to complain and it depends on the facts of each case. But in general, you have valid reason to complain if:
- Something you have bought doesn’t work
- A service has not achieved the result that was agreed
- Something has not been delivered on time
- You have been misled by the seller or an advert
Some things may not be covered, for example:
- You didn’t use a product in the way it was intended
- A product stopped working because of normal wear and tear
- You tried to repair it yourself
- There are superficial faults that you should have spotted when you bought the product
- You were told about a defect before you bought the item
Gather documentation and evidence of the problem
Before you start, gather all the facts, any receipts and other documentation about your complaint. Complaint information may include:
- Proof of purchase – It is your responsibility to prove that you bought the products or services. Proof of purchase can be a receipt, a credit card statement, or an order or booking confirmation
- Evidence of the problem – For example, photographs or video (particularly useful when proving the date of when and how a problem occurred)
- Guarantee or warranty – You will have to provide proof that your guarantee or warranty is still in date and covers the issue. You can read more in our document about guarantees and warranties
Decide the outcome you want
Before you approach the seller, think about what it is you want them to do to put the problem right. This could be:
- An apology
- A replacement
- A repair
- A refund
How should I complain to the trader?
If you decide to make a complaint, you should always approach the seller first, to give them the chance to put things right.
Start with an informal approach
Talking face-to-face or over the phone can be a good first step in raising your problem with the seller. You should ask to speak to a supervisor or manager who is able to sort out the problem for you (for example by repairing or replacing the good or refunding your money).
In some cases, the seller might offer other ways of making an informal complaint, for example through a customer care email, an online contact form, or web chat. If you use web chat, take screenshots in case the company does not keep a record of what was said.
You should always keep notes of what happened, including dates and times of conversations, the name of the person you spoke to, and what was agreed. Keep previous correspondence (for example, email, web chat, and online contact form) safe as you may need this if you want to take your complaint further.
Make a formal complaint
If the issue is still not resolved, you should put your complaint in writing (letter or email) stating all the facts of the case so far. You should include any relevant documents that support your complaint (copies only).
You should include the following in your complaint:
- Description of the product or service - order or booking number, batch codes, serial number or other features
- Quote your reference or account number, if you have one
- The date you bought the item and when the problem started
- The steps taken so far, including when you first made a complaint and who you spoke to
- If you can, refer to the law or a description of your rights and how you want the issue to be put right
- The next steps you may consider if you are not satisfied with the response you get from the seller (for example, reporting it to an enforcement body or taking legal action)
If you are unsure of what to include or need help to write a formal complaint, you can use the CCPC’s complaint letter templates. There are separate templates for complaints about faulty goods and for complaints about poor service.
Check you are sending the complaint to the right person or department. You should find contact details in the customer care section of the website, the company’s complaints procedure or in the contract terms and conditions. If not, phone the seller directly and ask for the name and address of a contact person.
Keep a copy of the complaint letter or email as you will need this if you decide to take your complaint further. It is a good idea to send the letter by registered post or attach a read receipt to your email. This means you have proof that you sent the complaint and it was received by the seller.
How do I take my complaint further?
If your complaint is not resolved within a reasonable period or you are not satisfied with the response from the seller, you can get help and advice from an independent consumer protection organisation.
Some organisations also provide dispute resolution services. This means that they may step in to help you resolve the dispute with the trader. Other organisations have the power to prosecute against traders or recommend the actions the trader must take.
You can contact the following consumer bodies for general consumer advice and support:
- Dispute with an Irish-based trader: Contact the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) for information and advice
- Dispute with a trader based in another EU country: Contact the European Consumer Centre (ECC) Ireland for advice about cross-border transactions. ECC Ireland, which is part of the European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net), can also liaise on your behalf with a trader based in another EU country. It works to find an agreeable solution between you and the seller but does not have enforcement powers and is a strictly out-of-court service.
There are other independent bodies who deal with specific industries, including:
- Air passenger rights (cancellation, delay or denied boarding – The Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR)
- Financial services – the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman (FSPO)
- Communications or postal services – Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg)
- Energy or water services – Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU)
The Office of the Ombudsman has a useful guide on Ombudsman Offices in Ireland (pdf). It can help you identify the correct ombudsman to deal with your complaint.
Other options to consider
In some cases, you may also have the following options:
- If you paid using credit card or debit card, you can contact the card provider and request them to reverse the transaction. This is known as chargeback. Some other payment methods also provide protection schemes (for example, PayPal buyer protection). The CCPC has more information on chargeback.
- Out-of-court procedures such as the European Consumer Centres Network (for cross-border disputes only) and Online Dispute Resolution (for national and cross-border online disputes)
- Take a claim against the seller using the small claims procedure. For cross-border disputes within the EU, you can avail of the European small claims procedure.
You can read about specific complaints topics:
- Complain about a financial services firm
- Complain about utilities
- Complain about phone, internet or TV
- Complain about advertising
- Complain about media
- Complain about building or home improvements
- Complain about professional services
- Complain about medical professionals
- Complain about a taxi
- Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
- Online Dispute Resolution (ODR)
- Small claims procedure