If you've had a bad experience at a local or national business, you have a variety of formal and informal ways to report what transpired. You can file formal complaints with government agencies or you can post reviews on social media channels, for example.
You'll need to follow processes laid out for consumer complaints by government agencies, and be careful when posting negative online reviews.
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Read More: How to Find the Status of a BBB Complaint
Make a Complaint With the BBB
The Better Business Bureau accepts consumer complaints, investigates the complaints, contacts the business and then posts the results of its investigation online. Some businesses have multiple complaints and grades (from A to F) that are posted on the BBB Website.
The BBB does not have enforcement authority (that's left to other government agencies), but low BBB grades can be very damaging to a business because they are trustworthy reviews used not only by consumers, but also by potential lenders, investors and the media.
Read More: How to File a Complaint on a Company for Bad Service
Notify the Head Office
If bad business practices are occurring at a local franchise or one department of a business, notify the head office of your experience. Headquarters of businesses want to know about bad business practices because they can damage the company. In addition, if you complain and get no response, you might go public, which can damage the business.
Contact an attorney to make sure your complaint doesn't get you in legal trouble. This could happen if you name an employee who then sues you for defamation. The company could also threaten you with a defamation lawsuit to try and get you back down.
Read More: How to Be a Wise Consumer
Call the FTC
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission helps protect consumers from fraud, scams and other bad business practices. Unlike the Better Business Bureau, the FTC has the authority to levy fines and close businesses. To learn how to file a complaint, visit the ReportFraudftc.gov website and follow the instructions.
Call Your State’s Attorney General
If you want quicker action, have your state start an investigation of the business. Go to your state's Attorney General website and look for consumer protection information. For example, the Georgia Department of Law Consumer Protection Division investigates frauds, scams and other issues on behalf of both consumers and businesses that have been wronged.
Post an Online Review
One way to report bad business practices is to share your experience on your social media channel or website review sites. Be as objective as possible. Don't simply write that the business was unprofessional or a scam.
Be specific, such as, "The dealer told me the car had a factory certified warranty, and when we were about to sign the papers, he said the vehicle was dealer-certified." Even a review like this, however, might cause legal problems for you if you can't prove this, so consider contacting an attorney to look at any and all online reviews you post or comments you make.
Find Consumer Advocacy Groups
Many organizations exist that fight for consumers. The U.S. Government Services Agency publishes the free, downloadable Consumer Action Handbook, which provides the names, addresses, phone numbers and emails for hundreds of businesses, consumer advocacy groups, state Better Business Bureaus and other government agencies involved in consumer protection.