More tips for filing a consumer complaint

A few weeks ago my colleague Mary Sue Greenleaf wrote a post about filing consumer complaints with the Colorado Attorney General’s office. This post is intended as a supplement to her post and will include some additional places to file a complaint for different types of consumer problems.


First, some general tips for filing a complaint:

  • Keep a written record of your problem so you can remember all the details when you file a complaint.
  • If you’re going to file a complaint over the phone or in person, first take a few minutes to sit down and think about what you’re going to say. Write it down – it is hard for everyone to remember things under pressure, and it will help to have written notes.
  • Remember: be firm, but also be calm and respectful.
  • Be specific. Giving details will help the person receiving the complaint to fix your problem.
  • Take some time to think about what you want – do you want a refund? A replacement product? A reduced bill for some ongoing service?
  • Making a complaint is a valuable tool for consumers. Remember, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. This post is intended to help you be as squeaky as you can!


Next, your complaint will be a lot more successful in helping you get what you want if you file it in the right place. There are a lot of different government agencies and nonprofits that will take consumer complaints. Some of the organizations listed below collect the same types of complaints, and it’s OK to file your complaint with more than one of them. Like Mary Sue wrote, the Attorney General’s office is usually the best place to start. However, here are a few extra resources:


–        Colorado Division of Real Estate

  • Here you can file a complaint against home appraisers, homeowners associations, mortgage loan originators, real estate brokers, and other home-related entities.
  • However, filing a complaint here will only get you somewhere if the person you’re complaining about has actually broken the law. You should talk to a lawyer or file a complaint with the Attorney General as well.


–        Federal Trade Commission

  • This agency is part of the federal government. Its mission is to eliminate false advertising & deceptive marketing, misleading information about financial products, telemarketing fraud, identity theft, and privacy violations – basically anything relating to deception.
  • One important thing to remember: the FTC does not resolve individual complaints. Instead, they collect information about what companies are doing bad things, and they share that information with other parts of the government.


–        Federal Communications Commission

  • This agency is part of the federal government that regulates TV companies, radio companies, phone provides, internet service providers – basically any company that provides a service over the airwaves.
  • File a complaint here if you have problems with harassing telemarketing or “robo” calls, your internet/phone/tv providers, or disability access to internet, phone, or TV
  • The FCC has authority to sue companies on behalf of consumers, but it moves slowly


–        Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

  • A few of my colleagues and I have written a bit about the CFPB on this blog – it’s a brand new federal agency that regulates financial products
  • Here you can file a complaint about your credit card company, credit reporting companies, your bank, or any kind of loan provider. The range of complaints that the CFPB collects is broad, and you can file a complaint about basically any kind of financial product.
  • As I wrote about in my last post, the CFPB has an online database where you can browse through the complaints that other people have filed. Don’t worry though – your personal information will be kept private. This database is a great tool for researching what companies you should do business with, and which companies you shouldn’t do business with.


–        Better Business Bureau

  • The Better Business Bureau is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to helping build trust between consumers and businesses. It is not a part of the government, but it’s a great tool for filing consumer complaints against businesses.
  • The BBB accepts complaints against all types of businesses, not only businesses that are members of the organization
  • It focuses mainly on false advertising and scams, but you can file a complaint about any kind of problem you have with a business
  • The Attorney General and the BBB will sometimes forward complaints back and forth between each other, depending on which of them will be more easily able to resolve the complaint

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