Complain to the taxman
Trust in the taxman has rarely been so low, with 2010 seeing a series of serious mistakes being made. And sadly, many of us may be losing out on some significant sums of cash due to our own ignorance towards the tax process.
So you need to make sure you have the right tax code. It’s a good idea to have a read of this section of Revenue & Custom's website as it gives a decent breakdown of the different codes and what they mean. If you then believe the code is wrong, you’ll need to contact your tax office.
Should you feel unhappy about the way HMRC has treated you – perhaps because they are targeting you for a supposed underpayment – then don’t just accept it, complain!
You’ll need to contact the complaints manager at the relevant tax office, providing details such as your National Insurance number and the last reference number the taxman used when contacting you. You will need to detail not just what you believe the taxman has done wrong, but also what they should do to put it right.
HMRC should then respond within 15 days.
If you aren’t happy with the response you get, you can then ask for a senior officer (who has not previously been involved) to take a fresh look and make a final judgement.
If you’re still unhappy, then it’s time to turn to the Adjudicator. Head over to the Adjudicator’s website, where there are full details on how to raise your case with them.
Complain to a company
If you’re annoyed with your energy provider, mobile phone operator or any other company, take a look at these tips.
Approach the company directly
You may be tempted to go straight to the relevant ombudsman, but your first step should always be to approach the company directly.
An ombudsman usually won’t take on a case on your behalf until it’s satisfied you’ve first tried to sort things out yourself.
Don’t hang around
There are often time limits (set, for example, by the ombudsman concerned) which mean your complaint could be invalid if filed after a certain period of time. Always register your grievance as quickly as possible after the event in question.
Put your complaint in writing
Hard copy, written complaints often seem to be taken more seriously than those made by telephone or email.
It’s a good idea to type your letter, sign it yourself and send it recorded delivery. That way, there’s no possibility of the company claiming it ‘never received it’.
Similarly, if any verbal agreements are made (either over the phone or face-to-face) politely insist you get those in writing, too.
An exception to the above tip is if the company’s preferred complaints procedure specifically asks that you call, or send an email.
All companies should have an official set of procedures to deal with complaints, so make sure you get a copy of this document at the earliest possible stage, and adhere to it.
You can always go ‘off-piste’ and approach them in a different way if the preferred method fails to get a response.
There are some useful general guidelines about how to complain (by phone and in writing) in this section of the Citizens Advice website.
Make and keep photocopies of all correspondence you send. This is not only evidence of the complaint having being made, but a handy memory aid when you can’t remember exactly how you put things.
If you’re not a confident letter writer, use a template letter provided by a consumer group to help plan what you want to say.
For example, Citizens Advice has put together a range of useful template letters, covering everything from faulty goods and contract cancellation to unfair credit agreements.
A specific target
If you write ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ and send the letter to a company’s general address, you’re pretty unlikely to get a response.
Find out exactly who is responsible for addressing your complaint (if necessary by phoning up and asking the company first) and address it to him or her specifically.
Personally, I wouldn’t advocate writing to the company’s CEO as a first resort… though judging by this lovemoney.com article, that approach can get results! I would keep that as a fall-back option, if your first complaint seems to fall on deaf ears.
Politeness costs nothing
Stick to the facts and try your very best not to get emotional or blow your top. That way, you won’t be providing the company with any ammunition about you being aggressive or unreasonable - and your complaint is more likely to be taken seriously.
No one likes a ‘Mr Angry of Tunbridge Wells’!
Call for back-up
Are you still dissatisfied with how your complaint has been handled? Now’s the time to contact the relevant ombudsman and ask it to take on your case.
There’s an ombudsman or complaints-handling organisation policing practically every industry in the UK. You can use this A-Z search tool to find the one you need.
For example, if your complaint relates to a financial company, you’ll need to deal with the Financial Ombudsman Service. This page of its website shows you the first steps to take.
Finally… avoid this rip-off!
You may be approached by one or more claims management firms, offering to take the whole nasty complaints business off your hands.
However, I would steer well clear - you’ll usually end up giving them your hard-earned cash with no guarantee of success. Read Got a complaint? Avoid this rip-off! to find out why they are a right royal rip-off!