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Resolving a consumer complaint

If you are not satisfied with a product or a service that you received, there may be ways for you to resolve your issue.

Know your rights

Learn about your rights under the law. Did you buy something and it broke? Is an item not ringing up at the correct price? Knowing how the law protects you is the first step to resolving your problem to your satisfaction.

Contact the seller

Try talking to the salesperson who sold you the item, the manager of the store, a customer service representative, or even the company headquarters. Keep a record of your conversations, including who you spoke with and when, and the action promised. Contact information for most companies can be found online, on package labeling, or on receipts. Social media can be an effective tool as well, but make sure any correspondence is documented and that you follow-up. Most businesses want to keep you as a customer and may be willing to resolve your problem directly. Management may be grateful for your input as it can help identify problems that are bad for business.

Write a complaint letter to the seller

If initial attempts at contacting the company are 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.

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.

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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. 

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. In addition, the Office of the Attorney General funds local consumer programs which receive and mediate written complaints from individual consumers. 

Lemon Law and Home Improvement Contractor Law arbitration requests are also made to the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation.

Federal Agencies: To locate a Federal agency that may have jurisdiction or regulatory authority over your inquiry, visit Consumer.Gov or USA.Gov  Most federal agencies can inform you of your federal rights, but you should be aware that they generally do not resolve individual complaints.

 

If your dispute remains unresolved and the amount of money involved in your problem is less than $7,000, 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. You may want to seek legal advice to decide whether or not you should pursue your claim in court.

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. Many county bar associations have lawyer referral service programs as well.

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.

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