How to complain, standard letters and taking legal action

Although we offer an advice service for consumers, our powers are limited as to how much we can get involved in individual disputes. We cannot, for example, order a trader to give you your money back or close a shop down. 

Resolve the matter with the trader 

What we suggest is that you first try to resolve the matter with the trader. If talking to them doesn't work, put the details of your complaint in a letter to the trader. We suggest that you send your letter with proof of posting from the post office such as recorded delivery post and keep a copy of the letter you have sent. To help you word your letter, there are template letters on the Citizens Advice website.

If your letter fails to resolve the issue, there are a number of other steps you can take.

The first thing to find out is whether the trader is a member of an ombudsman scheme or trade association as they will often operate a Code of Practice for their members and may also be able to help you come to an agreement.

Resolution via a court 

You may need to take the trader to the County Court, which for claims under the value of £10,000 will be heard in the Small Claims Court. Most hearings take place in a meeting room, and most people represent themselves rather than using a lawyer.

Before spending money on court fees though, think about:  

  • the Small Claims Court will not enforce the judgments they make. So whilst you may win, you may have to spend extra money (such as on bailiffs) to enforce the judgment, and even with bailiffs there is no guarantee of success. 
  • You will need to know the permanent address of the trader to make sure they receive the court document and to enable you to enforce the judgment if needs be.  
  • It may be wise to check if the trader you are considering taking to court already has outstanding Court Judgments before making your claim. You can check this on the Trust Online website for a small fee. If the trader already has judgments against him and has not done what the court has ordered, it may not be worth you spending further money on going to court.
  • If the business is a limited company you may wish to check with Companies House to see if they are still trading.

You can find further information on how to resolve your dispute by reading CAB's Advice Guide or call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133.