Have you ever had a bad experience with a company? Do you remember your frustration as you tried to resolve the issue? This week we're going to show you how to work with your Attorney General.
Hello, and welcome to Your Money 2.0. I’m Thomas Fox, Community Outreach Director at Cambridge Credit Counseling. Have you ever had a bad experience with a company? Do you remember your frustration as you tried to resolve the issue? Well, if you’re battling over poor service, misleading advertising, or unscrupulous scam artists, there is a way for you to receive help through your Attorney General’s office. Each year, hundreds of thousands of consumers contact their state’s Attorney General for assistance; unfortunately, even more people decide not to file complaints, often because they’re unsure about the resolution process or think that’s it’s going to cost them a lot to pursue the matter. Well, this week we’re going to show you how to work with your Attorney General.
First things first - before filing a complaint with your attorney general you should attempt to resolve the issue on your own. Before contacting the business in question, put your concerns on paper and gather any corresponding records. To keep things simple, make a bulleted list of details that will aid you in the resolution process. You may also wish to make this a ‘living document,’ where you can add critical information if you need to elevate your complaint to management, the attorney general, or any other consumer protection agency. Some helpful information to gather would include the time, the date or dates of interaction, the name of the representative you dealt with at the company in question, and an overview of the conversation. You should also do some research about the company’s own complaint resolution process. Remember: you’re not obligated to follow their procedure – you’re free to contact the attorney general at any time, but the company’s process may be all you need to come to a satisfactory conclusion.
Once you’ve outlined your concerns and gathered pertinent information, contact the organization to begin the dispute process. Cooler heads generally prevail in these situations, so be sure to stay calm and stick to the facts. Detail your concerns, and the specific actions you expect from the company to set things right. If you find the representative unhelpful, it’s ok to request to speak with their supervisor. These individuals have more latitude than their subordinates, and it can’t hurt to get a decision-maker on the phone if things don’t seem to be going your way. If you’re dealing with a reputable service, most consumer issues can be resolved this way. However, if you are still encountering difficulties, send a letter to the company’s president outlining your issue and the interactions you’ve had so far. Be sure to include your name and telephone number, and keep things brief.
If these efforts don’t work, file a formal complaint with your State Attorney General’s office. It’s important to realize the Attorney General will not provide legal advice; however, they are powerful advocates to have in your corner. Your complaint should detail your issue, the steps you’ve taken to remedy the situation, and any other information that would be helpful to their office. Once you file a complaint a few things can happen. The AG may forward your concerns to a local consumer group or to another state or federal agency for review. If so, you’ll be notified of the agency that will be handing your complaint. It will take time, so be patient.
In some instances the Attorney General’s office will place your complaint with a mediator who will work with you and the business in question, to resolve the issue. Mediators are typically located in your community, and can be powerful resources for consumers. They’re knowledgeable about the possible legal implications of your complaint, and they can provide you with an advocate who is well versed and adequately prepared to support you. Another benefit of mediation is that you’ll have someone with whom you can meet face-to-face to discuss your concerns. It is important to note that businesses are not required to participate in mediation; however, many will choose to resolve a complaint in this manner.
Your Attorney General’s office can be your best ally, and the source you may need, in resolving disputes, but they can’t get involved unless you take the first step and let them know about the situation. I know that it can feel like nobody is listening, but there are people and processes in place to help you every step of the way. If you feel you’ve been wronged by a business or other service provider, you don’t have to be a victim. Contact your Attorney General for advice and support. Until next time, I’m Thom Fox for Cambridge Credit Counseling.