James Walker: Make your voice heard if businesses let you down

One of the most common problems I hear about from Resolver’s users is businesses that don’t accept complaints by email, making you write in, call or go through a faceless online complaint system.

Some companies make it hard to complain.

Loads of us simply give up and walk away frustrated. I’m determined to tackle this in 2019 so watch this space. Just to complicate things, there are new and emerging services we use where everyone is struggling to make a complaint. Here are the big ones to watch out for (and a few tips on how to get your voice heard).

◆ Computer games and in-app purchases. Computer games are the biggest sector in the entertainment business with billions of sales each year. But the industry hasn’t got the best of reputations. Some of the biggest developers are useless when it comes to complaints. The (mis)sale of in-app/game purchases is being investigated by a number of official bodies and, ultimately, only a strong regulator will make a difference. But in the meantime, you can complain about broken games through the retailer under the Consumer Rights Act. You can also beat the terrible online complaints systems by tweeting the developers to shame them into refunding you.

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◆ Data misuse. I used a dinosaur emoji the other day when sending a WhatsApp message. A few hours later, Google is advertising dinosaur emoji ties. So is this a coincidence or is there something more sinister going on? The likes of Facebook and Google are under pressure about what they’re doing with our personal data. We can make complaints to the Information Commissioner about this, but it can be hard to prove. So go to the security section of each website and limit what information can be shared with advertisers. There are loads of free guides on how to do this online. As for Alexa and Siri, there is an off switch. Find where it is and use it – and the same goes for other devices that use the technology.

◆ Fraud and fighting back. There’s nothing worse than being defrauded – and even if you get your money back, there’s often little in the way of answers if you’re looking to find out how to make a complaint. If your account or credit card has been compromised, chances are it’s because a business that holds your details has been hacked. The fraudsters then have your password and maybe your card details, which they’ll use on every online shop or business to see if they can exploit this new information. Fraud of this type is usually obvious (the fraudster changes your address first then goes on a spending spree), so they often just agree to refund the money rather than fully investigate. But you can ask them to give you all the information they have about how the fraudster made contact so you can take the matter further. As for the firm responsible for breaching your data, watch the news and if you hear of a firm you’ve done business with being compromised, make a formal complaint and ask them if you were affected. Then take the complaint to the Information Commissioner or an ombudsman or dispute resolution scheme.

If you’ve been caught out by a business and have struggled to make your voice heard, let me know.

James Walker is the founder of online complaint-resolution service Resolver.co.uk