Fair trading, trade descriptions and Trading Standards

Handle customer complaints


It's good trading practice to have a complaints resolution procedure. This is something you can put into action straight away should you receive a complaint from a customer. This might include:

  • acknowledging receipt of the complaint within a certain time frame
  • letting the customer know who will deal with their complaint and how long any investigation may take
  • making amends and a gesture of goodwill if you find your business is at fault

Complaints procedures for service-sector businesses

If your business sells services you must provide contact details where customers can make a complaint. This applies whether your customers are individuals or other businesses. The contact details must include a telephone number and at least one of the following:

  • postal address
  • email address
  • fax number

If you have one, you must also give your official address. If this is the same as your postal address, there is no need to give it twice.

Although there is no set time limit, you also have a legal duty to respond to complaints as quickly as possible.

You must do your best to find a satisfactory solution to complaints - unless they are clearly unsubstantiated or malicious. However, you must not avoid replying to complaints that are just annoying or inconvenient.

Note that not all service providers are covered by these rules.

The benefits of dealing properly with complaints

Take any customer complaints seriously - it is worth investing the time and cost to address any complaints, because replacing a lost customer could cost you much more than keeping an existing one. Also, remember that a complaint could be an opportunity for you to put right a part of your business that is not working properly.

Sometimes, though, this might not put things right and the Northern Ireland Trading Standards Service (TSS) could become involved. It could even investigate your business of its own accord.