1. Educate Yourself.
Learn about your rights under the law. Look on our Information Page for information related to your subject. Become aware of consumer information related to your issue. This will increase your chance of resolving your problem to your satisfaction.
If you still have questions after reading the general information on our website, contact us for additional information.
2. Call the Seller.
Keep a record of your conversations - who you spoke with and when, and the action promised. If you can't resolve the problem at this level, contact the company headquarters. In some instances, you may have to contact the manufacturer. Many companies have a toll-free telephone number. Look for it on package labeling, or call 1-800-555-1212 for toll-free directory assistance. Management may be grateful for your input; it can help identify problems that are bad for business. Usually businesses want to keep you as a customer and may be willing to resolve your problem directly.
3. Write a Complaint Letter to the Seller.
If contacting the company by telephone is unproductive, you should then write a letter. An effective complaint letter should be clear and concise, and include all the facts. Include copies - not originals - of documents regarding your complaint, such as sales receipts, repair orders, warranties, cancelled checks, contracts, and any correspondence with the company.
You may want to send a 30 Day Demand Letter. If your problem involves an unfair or deceptive practice, which is a violation of the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act, the law requires you to send the merchant a demand letter 30 days before filing a claim in court. The merchant must make a good faith response within 30 days, or it could subject him/her to triple damages and attorney's fees. For instructions on writing a 30 Day Demand Letter, including a sample letter, see our 30 Day Demand Letter Page.
You may want to send any complaint letter by regular first class mail and by certified mail, return receipt requested. The extra money this costs pays for your proof that the company got your letter and who signed for it. Sending letters in both ways ensures that letter is received even if the recipient refuses or does not pick up the certified letter.
Keep a copy of all correspondence and enclosures for your own records so that you will have proof of all contact with the merchant.
4. Get a Third Party Involved.
If you are unable to resolve your problem by dealing directly with the company, file a complaint with the appropriate regulatory agency or with a dispute resolution program.
Licensed Professionals and Industries: If you have a dispute with a licensed professional or industry, you may wish to file a complaint with the state agency with jurisdiction over that profession or industry. To determine the proper place to send your complaint, review our Licensing Page. It lists the various licenses issued by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and provides links to information on how to file complaints against license holders.
General Consumer Protection Issues: The Consumer Protection Division of the Office of the Attorney General is the principal agency which enforces consumer law in Massachusetts. Generally, it will take legal action where patterns of fraud or unfair or deceptive acts or practices are found. In addition, the Office of the Attorney General funds twenty local consumer programs which receive and mediate written complaints from individual consumers. To find your local consumer program, review our Local Consumer Group page. If you need additional assistance in filing a complaint, contact us and we will forward your complaint to the appropriate enforcement agency.
The Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation offers mediation services to help resolve lemon law disputes. Lemon Law and Home Improvement Contractor Law arbitration requests must be made to the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation.
State Agencies: To locate a state agency that may have jurisdiction or regulatory authority over your inquiry, please visit the state's Agency List page or the main State Homepage. Many state agencies can and do investigate individual complaints.
Federal Agencies: To locate a Federal agency that may have jurisdiction or regulatory authority over your inquiry, please visit the U.S. Consumer Gateway, the Federal Information Center or the Consumer Resource Handbook. Most federal agencies can inform you of your federal rights, but you should be aware that they generally do not resolve individual complaints.
Non-Governmental Help: Alternatively, you may wish to seek assistance from non-governmental associations, such as:
5. Take Legal Action.
If your dispute remains unresolved, you may want to seek legal advise to decide whether or not you should pursue your claim in court.
If the amount of money involved in your problem is less than $2,000, then Small Claims Court may be right for you. This informal and inexpensive forum is designed to help you settle disputes without the aid of an attorney. See our Small Claims Court Page for details.
Complicated problems and claims involving a substantial amount of money should be reviewed by an attorney. To locate an attorney in your local area, you can call the Massachusetts Bar Association's Lawyer Referral Service at 800-392-6164 (in Massachusetts) or 617-338-0500. Also, many county bar associations have lawyer referral service programs, so check your local telephone directory.
If your income is limited, you may be able to seek help from your local legal services program. At least one program serves every city and town in Massachusetts.
Addition information on finding legal assistance can be found on website of the Massachusetts Trial Court Law Library.
Some of the information on this page is from the Federal Trade Commission's brochure Solving Consumer Problems.