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How to Write a Formal Complaint Letter (Free Template Included)

Claudia Diaz - Complaint Letter - September 24, 2023

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    Have you had a poor customer experience, received a defective product, or received improper services from a business or service provider? Consider writing a formal complaint letter if you are trying to resolve an issue with an individual or business.  

    In the article below, we go over how to write a formal complaint letter, what to include in your complaint letter, and provide a formal complaint letter example. 

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

    Reasons to Write a Formal Complaint Letter 

    There are several reasons why people send complaint letters:

    • Your landlord refuses to return your security deposit

    • A business sent you the wrong or defective product. For example, you purchase a new stove from a store online, and when your package arrives, you notice it’s not the one you ordered. You now want to request a refund. 

    • You hired a mechanic to repair your car, but they perform improper repairs

    • You hired a contractor, and they won’t perform as stated under the contract. Complaint letters may be used to address disagreements related to contracts, such as service agreements.

    Why Sending a Formal Complaint Letter is Important

    Sending a complaint letter is an important way to voice your concerns, get the required attention, and resolve your complaint

    Here are at least four other reasons to send a formal complaint letter: 

    1. A formal complaint letter demonstrates your commitment to resolving the issue. It shows the recipient that you are willing to take action to address the problem.

    2. You are taken more seriously if you send a formal complaint letter. 

    3. Sending a complaint letter provides a record of your complaint. This can be helpful if you need to pursue legal action in the future or if you want to file a complaint with a regulatory agency. 

    4. The most important reason to send a complaint letter is that it may lead to a resolution of your complaint. 

    What to Include in Your Formal Complaint Letter

    To write an effective professional complaint letter, consider including the essential elements below in your complaint letter. 

    What to Include at the Top of Your Letter 

    • Include your contact information

    • Include the recipient’s contact information. Make sure you know where to send your letter and who to address the letter to. 

    What to Include in the Body of Your Letter 

    • Tell your story. Here is where you want to explain the facts surrounding your complaint.  For example, you are writing a letter to a mechanic for improperly completing repairs to your car. You will likely want to include what repairs you paid for, what repairs the mechanic actually performed, why you think the repairs were improperly completed, etc. 

    • Tell the recipient how you want the problem resolved. Are you looking for a refund, store credit, repairs, an exchange, etc.? Alternatively, you can ask the recipient if they have any suggestions for resolution.

    What to Include at the End of Your Letter 

    • Include other forms of communication you are open to. Indicate if you are open to mediation or some other type of discussion before going to court. Mediation is a good choice for people who have a relationship with each other and want to keep the relationship going after a disagreement.

    • Include a deadline. You may want to consider giving the recipient 14days to respond to you and state that if they do not respond within that time, you will take further action. 

    • Add your signature. End your letter with a signature. 

    Additional Tips  

    • Attach any documents or relevant evidence. For example, if invoices you paid, a contract or written agreement, photos, etc. 

    • Keep a professional tone throughout your letter. Remember you are sending this letter in the hopes that the recipient will take action to resolve your complaint. Refrain from using antagonistic language in your complaint letter. 

    • Make sure your requests are reasonable. The recipient of the letter is not likely to take your complaint letter seriously if you ask for some type of unreasonable resolution.

    • Once you have sent your complaint letter, keep it in your records. In the event you do end up filing a small claims lawsuit, you can bring it to the hearing and show it to the judge. This is especially handy if the other person or business claims they didn’t receive the complaint letter or if the judge asks questions about the complaint letter at the hearing.

    Formal Complaint Letter Template

    Below is a sample complaint letter addressed to a business. You can use this same complaint letter format when sending your letter to a business or individual. Remember, when using this sample, insert the relevant information of your dispute: 

    [Your Name]

    [Your Address]


    [Recipient’s Name]

    [Recipient’s Address]

    RE: [Subject of your complaint] 

    To whom it may concern: 

    I am writing to discuss a complaint I have with [the product/service] provided by your business. I have [describe the problem or issue you faced]. This has caused me significant inconvenience and has resulted in [explain the impact of the issue].

    I have tried to resolve this issue through [explain the steps you have taken so far, if any]. However, I have yet to resolve the problem. 

    I am now requesting that you take immediate action to [explain what you want the recipient to do, e.g., provide a refund, replace the product, improve the service, etc.]. I would like to remind you that your policy states [include the relevant policies that support your complaint, if any].

    I look forward to resolving this matter amicably. You may contact me at [your email] if you would like to discuss this matter further. If I do not hear from you by [14 days from now], I will take further action.



    [Your signature]

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

    How to Send a Formal Complaint Letter

    Most people choose to send their complaint letter by mail. However, you may also be able to email your letter. For letters that you mail, consider sending your letter with tracking information so that you know when it has been delivered. 

    Next Steps After Sending a Formal Complaint Letter

    In addition to sending a formal complaint letter, consider taking the following steps to resolve your grievance: 

    1. File a complaint with a government or nongovernmental organization. 

    2. Sue in small claims court. 

    Filing a Complaint

    There are some government and nongovernment organizations that allow you to file a complaint against businesses and individuals. 

    The main agencies we go over in this article are: 

    If you have a complaint against a business, you can file your complaint with the BBB:

    • The BBB is a nonprofit organization that serves as an intermediary between consumers and businesses. 

    • The BBB allows consumers to file complaints against businesses for a variety of reasons ranging from poor customer service to misleading or fraudulent business practices. 

    • The BBB will review consumer complaints, and forward these complaints to the appropriate business. 

    • Please note, the BBB is not a government agency, so it can’t force a business to take a specific course of action to resolve a consumer complaint. However, businesses tend to respond to complaints filed against them with the BBB because these complaints can become part of a business’s public BBB profile for other consumers to see. Bad reviews and complaints can affect how a business does, so even though the BBB can’t force businesses to respond or take action to resolve complaints, there are incentives for businesses to resolve consumer complaints. 

    Filing a complaint with your state’s Attorney General’s Office:

    • A state attorney general's office is a government agency responsible for representing the legal interests of the state and its citizens. 

    • The attorney general's office is responsible for a wide range of legal matters, including enforcing consumer protection laws

    • Filing a complaint with your state’s attorney general’s office is generally quick and easy. Most Attorney General's Offices have an online form you can fill out or a hotline you can call to submit your complaint. Check out our Attorney General 50-state guide, where we go over how to file an Attorney General complaint. 

    Sue in Small Claims Court 

    If you aren’t able to resolve your complaint by filing with the following agencies or you didn’t receive a response to your complaint letter, consider suing in small claims court. Small claims courts are more affordable, quicker, and more efficient than other types of courts. Before you decide to file a lawsuit, make sure the amount you intend to sue for is within the small claims limit.  

    Here are some common reasons people file small claims lawsuits: 

    • A company won't give you a refund.

    • Your landlord did not return your security deposit.

    • You hired a mechanic to repair your car, and they did a terrible job.

    • You contracted with a painter to come paint your home, but they never show up. 

    • You paid a contractor to fix your roof, but they never showed up.

    • An airline lost or damaged your bags. 

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


    Claudia Diaz

    Legal Educator @ People Clerk. Claudia holds a J.D. degree and is a certified mediator in New York and Florida. She has participated in dozens of small claims mediations in New York City courts.

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