How to Complain Effectively

Imagine someone complaining. What do you think of? Immediately, you might be picturing someone angry, irrational and loud. When most people complain, it’s usually because they’ve reached the end of their tether, and this could end up resulting in shouting, insults being thrown around and threats being made.

In some cases, people who complain in this way will get what they want simply because staff want to get them out of their store (or off the phone).


But, in many cases, this simply won’t work – and in worst case scenarios, it could get you into a lot of trouble. You might even find that staff are unwilling to help you because of your attitude.

Because of the way that most people view complaining, some people never complain. This sort of person won’t complain in restaurants – instead, they’ll push their burned meal aside and thank the waiter politely afterwards, or they might try to say something but then immediately stop the moment they don’t get what they want.

Remember: it’s important to complain, the right way.

Complaining is simply about standing up for your rights as a consumer. And if you complain and the retailer doesn’t take action in some way, you dont need to give up. There are other things you can do.

Start With Writing Down The Issue

Start off with writing down your issue so that you have a clear idea about what happened. Make sure that you include:

  1. An accurate summary of the event / issue
  2. Any dates relating to the event
  3. Names of people you spoke to / dealt with
  4. The locations etc. that are of any importance to the complaint
  5. Reference / case numbers
  6. Any emails / texts relating to the complaint
  7. What you feel the remedy for the issue should be

Give The Company / Organisation A Chance To Make It Right

Always contact the company / organisation first to give them a chance to make it right. You can do this by contacting the company / organisation and letting them know you are unhappy with what happened. Stay calm but be firm. Let them know what you’d like to happen. Make sure that you ask for a reference number whenever you call a company that records their calls. If they dont, theyll usually give you the name of the person you spoke to (make sure you write down their name, the date and the time of the call).

If They Don’t Take Action

If you’ve complained to the company / organisation and they haven’t taken any action, you don’t have to give up there – you just need to know who to complain to. Its important that you complain to the right people.

There are three powerful avenues for complaining in South Africa:

  1. The Ombudsman
  2. HelloPeter
  3. The company’s social media account(s)

No matter who you complain to, make sure that you write the details down.

1. The Ombudsman

The Ombudsman investigates complaints that have not been handled appropriately. When this happens, they have the power to take action.

There are different types of Ombudsman for various industries, including banking, insurance and retail. If you’re unsure about whether there’s an Ombudsman for the specific industry about which you have a complaint, simply Google it or call the number below to request the right department.

You can contact the Consumer Goods and Services Ombudsman on: or call 0860 000 272.

The Ombudsman has been set up to ensure the Consumer Protection Act is followed appropriately.

The Ombudsman is free of charge – so it won’t cost you a cent to make a complaint.

Complaining to the Ombudsman

Before you complain to the Ombudsman, you should check the following:

  1. Have you called the organisation’s Customer Care department?
  2. Is the complaint appropriate for the Ombudsman?
  3. Is the complaint valid?

2. HelloPeter

Is there a Customer Complaints website that allows you to voice your concern over a company? is one such organisation and companies usually respond quite quickly to this medium as your complaint and their response is available to the general public. Make sure that you accurately document the complaint, dates, people responsible and the possible outcome that you would like. 

3. Social Media

You can also use the company’s Facebook or Twitter accounts to voice your complaint. Follow the same process as with Hello Peter; make sure that you accurately document the complaint, dates, people responsible and the possible outcome that you would like.

Get In Touch

082 313 2061

gauteng, south africa

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