main image

All You Need to Know to File a Business Complaint in New York

Robert Deposada - New York Business Complaints - May 2, 2024

Complaint against a company? Start by writing them a demand letter using our free tool.

Start Letter


    Did a New York company do you wrong?  If so, you should consider filing a formal complaint against the business, particularly if they failed to deliver a product, refused a refund, or did not provide the service they were required to provide to you. In this article, we focus on five main strategies to handle a business complaint:

    1. Communicate your complaint directly to the business. 

    2. Communicate your complaint via social media.

    3. Leave reviews.

    4. File a complaint with the government entities that regulate that industry.

    5. File a claim in a New York Small Claims Court.

    First, contact the business directly. 

    Before deciding to escalate your complaint, it’s important to try and resolve the problem directly with the business. Directly resolving the complaint with the business will save you time, money, and stress down the road and it is the most amicable way. 

    Informal communications: Start by communicating your concerns through email or phone.  Make sure you keep copies of the emails and texts and also write down dates and times of every phone call with notes for each call (for example, “On April 9, 2024, at 10:00 am, spoke with Joe Smith, a manager, and he said they would get back to me within five days”).

    Formal communications: If the business ignores your informal requests, it may be time to write a formal letter known as a demand letter, as this way, you can outline your requests in the letter, and notify the business that you will seek further action if the issue is not resolved.  

    Here are some other reasons why you should consider sending a demand letter to the business:

    1. A demand letter signals to the business that you are serious about the issue and willing to take action to resolve it. Many problems get resolved by simply sending a demand letter to a business.

    2. If you end up filing a small claims lawsuit against the business (more on this below), the judge in your case may ask you at your small claims hearing if you tried to resolve the problem out of court. By sending a written demand letter, there is a record of your attempt to resolve the problem out of court that you can include in your evidence. 

    3. A demand letter will also help you organize your facts and evidence and create a timeline of events. This will help you remain consistent and factual as you go through the steps to resolve your complaint. 

    Did you know we have a free tool powered by AI that helps you create a demand letter to a company? Check out our demand letter tool.

    Here is a video on how our demand letter tool works: 

    Second, use social media to communicate your complaint. 

    Here are some tips when reaching out to a business on social media: 

    • Start by sending the company a direct message rather than a public post. If you don’t receive a response to your private messages, consider posting publicly. 

    • When communicating the problem, use a less confrontational approach and give the company the opportunity to fix the issue before you “Twitter-shame” them. 

    • Don’t threaten the company in your DM or public post. 

    • Engage with a customer service representative and present your case. But always be nice, no matter how angry you might be. Remember, the customer service representative is human, and empathy may go a long way in getting your complaint resolved. 

    • Manage your expectations. Don’t plan on getting a response in 5 minutes; you can realistically expect a response within a day or so.

    Third, consider leaving a review. 

    If the business continues to ignore your requests even after you have tried communicating with the business, consider also leaving reviews on all platforms available like the BBB, Yelp, Trustpilot, and Google. Reviews tend to only be effective if the business cares about their online reputation. For example, if you see that the business doesn’t reply to their reviews, adding another negative review may not make a difference. 

    Better Business Bureau (BBB)

    The BBB is a non-profit that serves as an intermediary between companies and consumers. For example, if you want to complain about a New York company’s bad business practices you can file a complaint with the BBB. 

    While the BBB is not a government agency and can’t force the business to resolve your complaint, businesses take BBB reviews seriously for the following reasons: 

    • If the company is accredited with the BBB and doesn't respond to a BBB complaint, the business’s accreditation may be revoked, and the complaint becomes part of their BBB profile.

    • If the company is not accredited with the BBB, the complaint will become part of their BBB profile.

    • BBB reviews provide other consumers with confidence when engaging with a company. Companies do not want negative BBB complaints.

    To file a complaint with the BBB, use the BBB’s online complaint form

    The BBB has 3 offices in New York: 

    30 East 33rd Street

    12th Floor

    New York, NY 10016

    Phone: (212) 533-6200

    399 Conklin Street

    Suite 300

    Farmingdale, NY 11735

    Phone: (212) 533-6200

    150 White Plains Road

    Suite 107

    Tarrytown, NY 10591 

    Phone: (212) 533-6200

    Learn more in our guide to BBB complaints

    Make sure to be completely truthful in any public statements you make about the company.  If you later decide to file a complaint with a government agency or file a lawsuit, anything you post on social media or on any review websites that is inconsistent with the information you include in your complaint or lawsuit may be used against you. This is why it is so important to start by preparing a demand letter early in the process, to get organized and plan your argument.  Our demand letter tool will help you set up your case to get the justice you deserve and avoid common mistakes. 

    Fourth, file a government complaint against the business. 

    Most of the time there is a government agency that regulates a business. This means that there are government departments that investigate complaints against businesses when they do something wrong. New York has its own government regulators, and so does the federal government.

    If you are filing a complaint against an individual or business, make sure they are licensed with the correct New York licensing board or bureau you are filing a complaint with (in other words don’t file a claim against a plumber with the Department of Real Estate). These agencies investigate claims against a licensee, a person licensed under their licensing requirements.

    Before you file a complaint, have the following ready: 

    • Organize your story.  Write down what happened and separate your feelings from the facts. 

    • Create a timeline.  Present the events in the order in which they happened, using dates whenever possible. 

    • Write down why you are filing a complaint.  On the complaint form, you will be asked to describe the event or business practice that was misleading to you and why. 

    • Collect your evidence.  Prepare copies of contracts, letters, advertisements, sales slips, proof of payment, warranties, papers or other documents that may support your complaint. 

    If you sent the business a demand letter, you should refer back to your demand letter (remember, we have a tool that helps you write a demand letter if you haven’t done this already). 

    What happens after you file a government complaint against a business?

    After you file the complaint, the government agency will likely reach out to you letting you know they have received your complaint. If they are unable to help you with your complaint, they will let you know. They will also let you know the time frame and their process for handling the complaint against the business.

    Note that your issue will NOT be resolved against a business just because you filed a complaint with a New York (or Federal) government agency.  This is only the first step. In most cases, it will depend on the government department you filed the complaint with and their internal process. The New York State legislature (or the Federal legislature or local city council) set the requirements for each government department. This means that your elected officials determine what the government entity can or can't do when investigating a consumer complaint against a business.

    Here are some examples of the authority of government entities:

    • Some government agencies have the authority to investigate consumer complaints and issue fines or take away a license required to do business if they find the business is at fault.

    • In most cases, these government departments can investigate consumer complaints, however, they cannot require the business to issue you a refund.

    • Sometimes, government agencies have the power to help enforce a court order or judgment if you win a lawsuit against the business. If you learn about this information, save it as it may come in handy if you win in court and the business doesn’t pay you.

    What types of complaints against a business can I file?

    Each agency accepts different types of complaints, but here are some of the most common complaints against a business an agency can handle:

    • When a business fails to refund you.

    • When you purchase an item or a service from a business, but the business doesn’t respond to you.

    • When the law requires the business to do something, but the business is not following the law.

    • When you want to report bad business practices. 

    Filing a Complaint with The New York Attorney General

    The New York Attorney General is the state’s top legal advisor, with many responsibilities and duties.  Most importantly, the New York Attorney General investigates consumer complaints against businesses and individuals.

    How to file a complaint with the New York Attorney General:

    • New York Attorney General complaint number: 1-800-771-7755

    • Online: Submit a NYS Attorney General Consumer Complaint using their online form

    We have a detailed guide on New York Attorney General Complaints.

    Here is a list of different industries and where to file your complaint: 


    Where to file:

    All professional misconduct except medicine

    New York State Education Department's Office of the Professions

    Attorneys and Judges  

    New York Courts or NYS Supreme Court Grievance Committee Complaint Form or New York City Bar Association

    Care provided by Hospitals and Diagnostic and Treatment Centers

    New York State Department of Health or New York State Department of State Division of Consumer Protection


    New York State Education Department, Office of Professional Licensing Services 


    New York State Department of Health

    Health Care Insurance Coverage-Related Issues

    New York Attorney General Health Care Complaint Form

    Home Improvement Contractors

    New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection  


    Several options depending on the type of complaint, review our guide.


    New York DMV

    New York City general complaints against a business

    New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection 

    Online or retail purchases, service contracts, streaming services, software, digital media and apps

    New York State Attorney General Internet, Technology and Privacy Complaint Form

    Landlords (Security Deposit Issues)

    New York Attorney General Rent Security Complaint Form

    Vehicles Complaint Forms

    New Car Lemon Law or Used Car Lemon Law or Lease Disputes

    Helpful links if you reside in one of the following counties:

    Albany County

    The Albany County Department of Consumer Affairs accepts complaints if you are a resident of Albany county or complaining about a business located in Albany County. Send your complaint by email to [email protected].

    Suffolk County

    The Suffolk County Division of Consumer Affairs accepts complaints relating to “home improvements, furniture purchases, mail order sales, credit card billing, and misleading ads”. They accept complaints using their online form.

    Erie County

    The Erie County Division of Consumer Protection accepts complaints if you are a resident of Erie County or complaining about a business located in Erie County. You can file a complaint using their online form

    Fifth, file your case in Small Claims Court. 

    If sending a demand letter, filing a complaint with government entities, using social media, and reviews did not produce the results you were looking for, consider filing a small claims court case. Small Claims Court is a special part of the New York State Unified Court System that handles civil disputes between individuals and businesses. Learn more about suing in a New York small claims court.


    Robert Deposada

    Legal Educator at People Clerk. Robert has a passion for breaking down complicated legal processes in easy-to-read legal guides.

    Subscribe for Small Claims Tips