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Complaint roadmap helps consumers find their way

(NC) When shopping experiences go wrong, it is sometimes hard to find the right person to talk to, or know of the right course of action to take. For some, it's an intimidating process to make a complaint. For others, it can be downright confusing.

Here are some tips on how to approach the complaint process more effectively:

Step one: What to know before you start

• Collect all receipts and other documents related to your complaint.

• Know and understand your rights as a consumer. Get to know your provincial or territorial consumer protection laws.

• Assess if you actually have a case: read the policies and contracts. (Have you followed your end of the contract?)

• Read the refund and exchange policies.

Step two: Prepare yourself

• Prepare a file. It will help you present your complaint in a clear, concise and factual manner.

• Make copies of your information—receipts, order forms and cheques.

Step three: Contact the business

• Practice explaining the problem to yourself or a friend in a clear and concise way.

• Be polite: it may get you better, and possibly quicker, results.

• Stay calm.

Step four: Writing

• If step three doesn't work, send a written letter or email to the company.

Step 5: Taking your complaint further

• If you're not getting the results you're looking for, you can contact your provincial or territorial consumer affairs office or organizations that specialize in handling complaints for specific industries.

• The Complaint Roadmap at www.consumerinformation.ca will give you a list of organizations that may be able to help.

Step 6: Legal action

• Small claims court and class action lawsuits are two possible legal options. Assess the costs and benefits of both.

• There are limitations to what you can do, and what you can get. For example, the maximum dollar limit for small claims court cases varies between provinces and territories. Consider seeking legal advice.

The more you know about the rules, regulations and laws of filing complaints, the more likely you'll be able to get a positive outcome.

For more information, check out the Complaint Roadmap at www.consumerinformation.ca.

The Roadmap was developed by the Consumer Measures Committee — a partnership of your federal, provincial and territorial governments.

www.newscanada.com

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