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How to Complain Effectively

Consumer's guide to handling complaints about merchandise or service.

A message from the Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller:

Almost everyone is dissatisfied at one time or another with a purchase or transaction in the marketplace. This pamphlet seeks to help consumers solve their problems by presenting their complaints effectively. Each year the Consumer Protection Division handles thousands of complaints and saves consumers thousands of dollars. Perhaps it can help you.

Before you make a purchase

  • Comparison shop for the best price and services.
  • Ask the store for its policy on refunds, exchanges, repairs, and guarantees.

When you make a purchase

  • Save all receipts, contracts, warranties, advertisements-anything related to the purchase.
  • Save the papers for ALL your purchases in one location.

How to register your complaint with the merchant

  • Pursue your complaint immediately.
  • Act while details are fresh in your mind and the merchandise is in its original package.
  • Keep a complete record of your complaint.
  • Save copies of any correspondence you send or receive.
  • If you complain in person or on the phone, write down the names of persons with whom you speak.
  • Explain your problem clearly. State your complaint courteously but firmly. Have your supporting facts and documents in order. Losing your temper will only aggravate matters.
  • Complain to the right person. Take your problem to the salesperson, supervisor or manager.
  • If you still are not satisfied, contact the owner, regional representatives or company officers.
  • Carefully consider any offers to settle your complaint. If your claim in full is rejected, consider suggesting a fair partial settlement.

After you have made a careful attempt to settle your complaint directly, contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division

To file a complaint with the Iowa Attorney Generals Office, send a written description of the problem. Please include the following:

  • Identify the name and current address and phone number of the business.
  • Describe the problem in detail in chronological order.
  • Explain what you want the business to do to satisfactorily resolve the problem.
  • Include photocopies of all documents relevant to your complaint, including receipts, contracts, bills, letters, advertisements, etc.
  • Please type your complaint or make sure your handwriting can be read by our staff.

We are pleased to make our Consumer Complaint Form available to you on your computer. Please enter this form online or download this file and print it. If you choose to mail the form, mail the completed form and copies of all relevant documents to the:

Consumer Protection Division
Office of the Attorney General
Hoover Building
1300 E. Walnut
Des Moines, Iowa 50319.

Thank you.