How to make an effective consumer complaint

From online shopping, air passenger rights, renting a car abroad, to booking holiday accommodation, there are many issues that consumers may encounter. Sometimes it can be hard to know if you have rights and what those rights are; how to make the complaint, and who to contact if you need further help.

Before you fire off your complaint to or against a trader (be in an airline, an online store or a car rental company, etc.), keep in mind these three Ps: patience, persistence, politeness. Likewise, from the point of view of the trader, it is far better that they handle your complaint in fast, fair, friendly manner (the famous three Fs of customer service) so that they retain your custom.

Here’s what you need to know on how to prepare, document and execute a consumer complaint.



When it comes to consumer legislation the main resources of information for your consumer rights in Ireland are:



When things go wrong you should look through the Terms and Conditions of your purchase of goods contract, travel package documentation or airline ticket. These should be easily located on the trader’s website. That is where you should find clear information about refunds, cancellation policies, non-delivery and complaints procedures.



Make sure you direct your complaint to the correct department, follow the complaint procedure outlined on the trader’s website (if any), and contact the trader via the dedicated customer service online form or email address, phone number, postal address.

Remember – be assertive but not aggressive. Be brief and ask to have the complaint escalated. Make sure to give sufficient details to assess your request. Always give the company the opportunity to resolve the matter through their internal policies and procedures first.

These are the steps to follow when making a complaint:

  • Make a complaint in writing – by post or e-mail – as soon as possible after identifying a problem. Written correspondence reduces the potential for misunderstandings and is more likely to prompt written responses, which are normally provided after sufficient consideration is given to the matter.
  • The correspondence should clearly explain what the problem is and what remedies you are seeking in a polite manner.
  • Make sure to enclose/attach a copy of the relevant documentation/paperwork (order confirmation, delivery receipts, photographic evidence of a fault or damage). Never send original documents by post.
  • Document every complaint step you take by saving your correspondence with the trader, including copies of e-mails, proof of submission (email timestamp, read receipt, postage), or take a screenshot if you are submitting a complaint via an online complaint form or chat window.
  • Give the trader a time limit to resolve the matter (for example, 14 days).


If the trader does not reply to your complaint, refuses to take action, or makes a final offer that you are unwilling to accept, then you can seek further advice and assistance, as follows:

  • If you are an Irish resident and you have a dispute with a trader that is also based in Ireland, contact the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission. Read their consumer rights information in their consumer hub here first.
  • If you are an Irish resident and you have a dispute with a trader that is in another EU/EEA** country you can contact ECC Ireland through our page here. Our service is free, confidential and strictly out-of-court.

If you are unsure what to include in a complaint, use these samples and templates from the CCPC and from the International Consumer Centre UK.


LEARN MORE: How to cancel and return an order