So, if someone you have paid to provide a service to you has made a mistake, that means they have to pay, right?

Not necessarily.  There is a difference between a mistake or inadequate professional service and an error which entitles you to bring a claim for compensation in the courts.

That doesn’t have to be an end to it.  None of us like to complain when something has gone wrong.  However, making a complaint can be an effective first step in working out whether you have a claim.  The professional may be less on their guard and may not have told their insurance company about your issue.  This means that they may not have involved solicitors.  You may be able to get some useful admissions or other information from them together with a copy of any relevant documents, especially if you have paid all of the bills.  You can then use this information in any claim you may later choose to bring.

So, how do you make an effective complaint? Here are some tips:

  • Every professional will have a formal complaints policy they must follow when a complaint is made. Make sure that you are familiar with the professional’s complaints procedure.  If you have not been provided with a copy, check their website for details or ask them for details of it.  This will usually set out how to make a complaint, who will deal with it, when a response can be expected and what else can be done if you are not happy with it.
  • Address your letter to the person in the organisation who has been appointed to deal with complaints.  This will help to ensure that your complaint is dealt with as quickly as possible.
  • A letter of complaint does not have to be in any specific form but you should ensure that you set out as fully as possible the nature of the complaint.  What did you ask them to do, what went wrong and what has been the consequence of that for you?  Try to keep to facts and do not let anger or frustration get in the way.
  • Include copies of any documents you believe are relevant and support your complaint.  Make sure you keep the originals for yourself; you may need them at a later date.  Also make sure you keep a copy of your letter.
  • Are there any documents you believe would help you to understand what has happened and why the mistake was made?  If so, you should request a copy of these.
  • What do you expect the professional to do about the complaint?  You should be realistic; usually this will be for your complaint to be fully investigated.
  • Consider whether you should make sure you can prove your letter was received by the professional, for example, by sending it by email and/or by registered post.
  • Make sure you take a note of the date by which you can expect a response under the complaints policy.  Follow up your complaint if you have not received a full response from the professional within that time.
  • Remember if you are not satisfied that the response deals properly with your complaint, it may not be the end of the road.  Most professionals have governing bodies which also deal with complaints and, in some cases, can award compensation.  We have already written about how to involve the Financial Services Ombudsman, for example, in a previous blog post.

Follow these tips in making a complaint, then you can make it count.

This post was written by Michelle DaviesFor further information, please contact:

Michelle Davies, legal director, Commercial Dispute Resolution 

T: 0121 234 0092

E: Michelle.Davies@gateleyplc.com 


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This blog is intended only as a synopsis of certain recent developments. If any matter referred to in this blog is sought to be relied upon, further advice should be obtained.