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Our Advice Sheets

Writing an effective letter of complaint

If you have a problem with faulty goods or a poor service, which you have not been able to resolve by complaining in person or by telephone, you should put your complaint in writing.

To achieve the best possible result, consider the following points when writing your letter or email:

  • always make sure you write to the person who has authority to deal with your complaint - it may be advisable to contact the trader and ask for the senior manager's name and job title
  • check to make sure you are using the correct address - if you write directly to a branch, you can also send a copy of the letter to the head office
  • many traders have a complaints procedure - if this is the case, follow it to avoid unnecessary delays
  • if you bought goods or services online, check the trader's web page for a dedicated email address or online contact form to use for complaints or enquiries as an alternative to writing a letter. Always store a copy of the email as you may need it in the future. If you receive an email acknowledgement of your complaint, keep it. If you are still unable to resolve the issue by email you should put your complaint in writing 
  • you should always quote any relevant order numbers, reference numbers and invoice numbers in your letter to make it easier for the trader to connect your complaint to the transaction
  • be specific and stick to the point - genuine points of concern may be 'lost' in a long, rambling letter or email - quote dates of events and all the relevant circumstances surrounding your complaint
  • always ensure your letter is legible - seek help if necessary
  • seek advice on your legal rights by contacting the Citizens Advice consumer service - it may be useful to inform the trader in your letter that you have sought legal advice
  • if possible  quote the law you are making your claim under and make it clear what the relevant law entitles you to
  • be clear about what you want the trader to do to resolve your complaint
  • get evidence such as independent reports and photographs to support your claim and enclose copies (not the originals) with your letter or send them as attachments to your email or online contact form
  • if possible send copies to all known addresses for the trader and if the trader has a head office then send a copy there as well
  • include copies (not the originals) of any supporting documentation such as the proof of purchase, order forms and invoices - do not send copies of bank/credit card statements due to the risk of identity theft - if you have to do this, then ensure ALL sensitive information is covered up
  • quote a reasonable time for the trader to respond to you (for example 10 working days)
  • keep a copy of your letters and send them by recorded delivery - this will help to prove that the letter was sent and received. If you receive a 'read receipt' for your emailed complaint or from the completed online contact form, store it for future reference
  • act quickly - delaying can sometimes affect what you are entitled to
  • be persistent and write a reminder letter or email if you do not get a reply to your first one
  • copies of letters, emails and other documents are useful evidence if you refer your complaint to a trade association or regulatory body or if you take action in the small claims court
  • if at any stage you need to check the wording of legislation or your legal entitlements then contact the Citizens Advice consumer service for further assistance

Template letters

For additional help, seek guidance from the consumer leaflets and use the template letters as below (compatible Word document format):

Faulty goods - Repair or replacement
Refund for faulty goods
Returning goods bought at a distance
Returning goods bought off premises
Making time of the essence for delivery of goods
Building work delays
Building work repairs
Repairs to faulty double glazing
Faulty carpet/flooring
Repairs as a result of poor service
Holiday complaint
Unsatisfactory car repairs
Repairs to faulty car
Refund for faulty car
Refund for faulty car bought on hire purchase
Communications/media services - Lack of reception
Asking trader to consider a joint expert report
Holding a finance company equally liable in a dispute with a trader
Right to redress (right to damages)
Right to redress (right to a discount)
Right to redress (unwinding the contract)
Letter before court action

Please note

This leaflet and its attachments are not an authoritative interpretation of the law and are intended only for guidance. Any legislation referred to, while still current, may have been amended from the form in which it was originally enacted.

For further information please contact the Citizens Advice consumer service, which provides free, confidential and impartial advice on consumer issues. Visit or call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06.


Last reviewed/updated: December 2014




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This page was last edited on 12/03/15