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Personal Finance

Complain and get results

In 2019, Terry Smith of Jacksonville, Fla. Traded in his 2019 Corvette Grand Sport for a Chevrolet Silverado pickup from the same year. But soon after I bought the truck it started to go wrong and some parts had to be replaced immediately. He had problems with the transmission, air conditioning and traction, Smith says. He contacted a friend, a lawyer, who advised him to complain to General Motors before taking legal action (see below for more details on lemon laws).

Smith called GM and described the truck’s problems. He told the company he could take legal action but would rather not. GM agreed to take a look at the truck, but found it to perform as expected. Despite this, Smith’s lawyer friend advised him to call back and be persistent. After three months of appeals and complaints, GM agreed to pay him $ 5,000.

Last May, after the prices of used cars and trucks soared, Smith decided to sell the Silverado. He had it appraised by CarMax, who offered him $ 1,000 more than he had originally paid for. “In the end, I basically got paid to drive it for a year and a half,” says Smith.

Dealing with a defective product or poor service can be frustrating. But by using proven strategies to complain effectively, you will have a good chance of being satisfied. Most of all, stay calm and polite, and be prepared to persevere. Dealing with a business can be time consuming and often requires patience.

Before picking up the phone or going online, take the time to prepare your case. And whenever you need to make a complaint, remove your emotions from the conversation first. Essentially, be nice, says Barbara Khozam, a customer service consultant. This is because an angry customer can put a customer service representative on the defensive.

The more accurately you can describe the details of your situation, the more likely you are to get results, says Khozam. But while providing context and the big picture is important, be careful not to overwhelm the business with unnecessary information. “Make sure that when you file a complaint you only state the facts,” says Michaela McDonald, certified financial planner in New York City. If you bought a faulty product, take photos and attach them to an email or social media post. If you have a complaint about a service, it may be helpful to review the description of the service and point out what was omitted or changed in your case, McDonald explains. You can even copy and paste the service description into your message to the company.

Also, if you’ve called a business multiple times about incompetent service and been ignored, explain how many times and when. If you are a loyal customer, you can also mention how long you have been with the company and what you like about the company.

Either way, talking to a human is often your best bet. So if you’re not getting results by submitting an online form or using an automated online chat system or automated phone attendant, see if you can reach a customer service representative. Sometimes that’s not easy – phone menus and websites may not provide a way to contact a representative directly – and you may have to look outside of company resources to find out how to get in touch with a representative. a real person.

Doing a little bit of your own research can go a long way. Try visiting which has phone numbers and shortcuts for how to reach a real person in a number of businesses. You can also often find the names and contact details of company CEOs and C suite employees through LinkedIn or on websites such as

An owner or manager is more likely to be able to help you than most other employees in the business, says Khozam. “And if you communicate your situation in a calm and detailed manner, an owner or manager can probably do something,” she says.

The role of social media in consumer complaints has grown significantly in recent years. “Social media reviews can make or break a business,” says Khozam, and a good business with a good owner will be at the top of its social media presence. Sometimes a business will even ask someone to review their social media. But while leaving an online review or commenting on a company’s social media page can be an effective way to quickly grab their attention, Khozam recommends using social media as a last resort.

Contacting a consumer protection agency or government office can help. But make sure you understand its role; some organizations mediate between the consumer and the business, while others simply collect complaints to spot trends. In many cases, the Better Business Bureau ( will forward your complaint to a business and work with both parties to resolve the issue. For a list of groups that can help you, as well as sample letters and other tips for an effective complaint, go to for a “How to Complain” manual, which is available. in three languages.

If your bank or any other type of financial service provider makes a mistake at your expense, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The CFPB has handled more than half a million consumer complaints in the past year, said Scott Steckel, responsible for the stakeholder engagement program for consumer response at CFPB. The most common complaints recently have been problems with credit, debt collection or checking and savings accounts. But the CFPB sees “the whole cascade of consumer complaints in consumer financial services,” says Steckel. You can turn to CFPB for help with transactions with a bank or with a broker, insurer or other financial service provider. The agency also deals with issues related to auto loans and payday loans.

If you have a complaint, file it on the CFPB website ( or by phone (855-411-2372) in over 180 languages. You can also write a letter or send a fax. Ultimately, each complaint is assigned a case number and entered into the Consumer Complaints Database, a searchable resource available to the public and updated nightly.

The vast majority of complaints come from the agency’s website, says Steckel. Identify the product or service, state the problem you are having, name the financial company and express the desired resolution, and the CFPB will ensure that the company contacts you within 15 days. You must also certify that your complaint is true and correct, but you do not have to contact the company first. “We always say try to go to the company first, but it doesn’t have to be,” says Steckel. “If you have a problem with a financial product or service, we’ve got you covered,” he says.

Consider some preventative strategies to avoid disappointment. One is the 24-hour rule, says McDonald. If you’re thinking about making a large purchase, give yourself at least 24 hours to think about it. If you have the time to research, read consumer reviews and consult with a business before you patronize. The Better Business Bureau website contains reviews and complaints about member companies. You can also share your complaint about a company on its public BBB complaints page; many companies will respond and engage with consumers. Simply search for the company on the BBB website, select their page, scroll to the section called “Customer Complaints” and click “Submit a Complaint” to write your own complaint. You will also be able to see if other consumers have had similar issues and how the company has responded to those complaints.

If you’ve recently bought a new or used car that hasn’t met your expectations, you may have legal options. The “lemon laws,” which protect buyers of so-called lemon cars, vary from state to state. State lemon laws generally designate a lemon as a vehicle recently purchased or leased (usually within the past two years) with defects that the manufacturer or dealer cannot correct within a reasonable time.

All 50 states have some sort of new auto lemon law. Under most state laws, you are entitled to a full refund for a qualifying new lemon car.

Six states (Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island) have also used automotive lemon laws. The laws have several classifications of vehicles for coverage, which means that any compensation depends on the age of the vehicle and the number of kilometers driven.

Seven other states have certain protections for used vehicle buyers. Arizona and New Mexico require used car dealers to provide warranty for at least the first 15 days after the sale or the first 500 miles. Connecticut and Nevada also require some form of collateral, with various limitations. In Maine, a vehicle must first pass a safety inspection. And in Pennsylvania and Illinois, dealers have limits on the flexibility of warranty they offer for used cars. Federal law also ensures that manufacturers honor their warranties; If your state’s lemon law does not provide sufficient protection, you can seek redress through the Magnusson-Moss warranty law.

You can view detailed information about the lemon laws for each state on the Better Business Bureau’s auto line ( .

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