A consumer complaint
or customer complaint
is "an expression of dissatisfaction on a consumer's behalf to a responsible party" (Landon, 1980). It can also be described in a positive sense as a report from a consumer providing documentation about a problem with a product or service. In fact, some modern business consultants urge businesses to view customer complaints as a gift.
Consumer complaints are usually informal complaints directly addressed to a company or public service provider
, and most consumers manage to resolve problems with products and services in this way, but it sometimes requires persistence.
If the grievance is not addressed in a way that satisfies the consumer, the consumer sometimes registers the complaint with a third party such as the Better Business Bureau, a county government (if it has a "consumer protection
" office) and Federal Trade Commission
(in the United States). These and similar organizations in other countries accept for consumer complaints and assist people with customer service issues, as do government representatives like attorneys general. Consumers however rarely file complaints in the more formal legal sense, which consists of a formal legal process
(see the article on complaint).
In some countries (for example Australia, the United Kingdom, and many countries of the European Community), the making of consumer complaints, particularly regarding the sale of financial services, is governed by statute (law). The statutory authority
may require companies to reply to complaints within set time limits, publish written procedures for handling customer dissatisfaction, and provide information about arbitration schemes.
Internet forums and the advent of social media
have provided consumers with a new way to submit complaints. Consumer news and advocacy websites often accept and publish complaints. Publishing complaints on highly visible websites increases the likelihood that the general public will become aware of
the consumer's complaint. If, for example, a person with many "followers" or "friends" publishes a complaint on social media, it may go "viral". Internet forums in general and on complaint websites have made it possible for individual consumers to hold large corporations accountable in a public forum.