How to File A Complaint Against a Business

May 3, 2021
How to File A Complaint Against a Business
People Clerk helps you with your small claims court lawsuit.

Did a business do you wrong? For example, did a business fail to give you a refund, fail to delivery an item you bought, or did not provide the service you thought you would be receiving?

In this article, we cover several ways you can file a complaint against a business.

Government Complaints Against a Company

Did you know that there is almost always a government entity that regulates a business? This means that there are government departments that investigate complaints against businesses when they do something wrong. Each state has their own government regulators and the federal government also has regulators.

Here are some common examples government entities you can file a complaint against a business with:

  • Complaint against an insurance company? The California Department of Insurance handles complaints against insurance companies. Learn more here.
  • Complaint against an airline? The U.S. Department of Transportation handles complaints against airlines. Learn more here.
  • Complaint against a contractor? The California Contractors State Licensing Board handles complaints against contractors. Learn more here.
  • Complaint against a mechanic? The California Bureau of Automotive Repairs handles complaints against mechanics. Learn more here.

This list can go on and on! The California Department of Consumer Affairs publishes a list of government regulators by profession that you can look over if you need to file a complaint against a business.

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

Will you get your issue resolved against a business after filing a complaint with a government agency? The answer to this question really depends on the government department you filed the complaint with. The state legislator (or federal legislators) set the requirements for each government department. This means that your elected officials determine with the government entity can or can't do when investigating a consumer complaint of a business.

Here are some examples of the authority of government entities:

  • Some government departments have the authority to investigate consumer complaints and issue fines or take away a license required to do business.
  • Some government departments can investigate consumer complaints but cannot require the business to issue you a refund.
  • Some government departments can help enforce a court order or judgment if you win a lawsuit against the business.

After you file the complaint, the government agency will likely reach out to you letting you 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.

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 an business fails to refund you when they should have refunded you.
  • When a you purchased an item or a service from a business but they don't respond to you.
  • When the law requires the business to do something, but the business is not following the law.

Many government agencies also publish consumer guides for common problems.

The government agency in charge of regulating a business knows common complaints or issues within its industry. They tend to publish consumer guides or consumer complaints so make sure you check out the agency's website to see if you have a common issue! 

Here are some common guides:

How to file a complaint against a business with the government

Each government entity has a different process for filing a complaint against a business but in general you are either able to file the complaint online or by mail. Go to the government entity's website that you want to file a complaint with to learn the steps.

How to reach out to a company via Twitter

One way to get your complaint against a business sorted out is to reach out to the business via Twitter. Find the business on Twitter and see if they respond to customer complaints. If they don't, it may not be worth your time voicing your concerns on Twitter. Some companies even have a dedicated Twitter handle or username for customer complaints!

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) and Complaints Against a Business

What is the BBB?

The BBB is a non-profit that serves as an intermediary between companies and consumers.

Reasons why some businesses respond to BBB complaints:

  • If the company is accredited with the BBB and they don't respond to a BBB complaint, their 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.

Reasons why some business don't respond to BBB complaints:

  • They have already received too many BBB complaints and another complaint won't affect them.
  • The BBB is non-profit that doesn't have regulatory power over them (the BBB can't stop them from doing business).

What types of complaints against businesses does the BBB handle?

The BBB handles a broad range of complaints against businesses. Here are some common types of complaints against businesses submitted to the BBB:

  • Used and new car sales
  • Disputes with phone companies (bills, overcharges, returns)
  • Disputes against any business for their product or service
  • Deceptive advertising
  • Concerns with privacy policy or practices
  • Disputes against a charity

Read More: How to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (BBB)

How to file a complaint against a business with the BBB

  1. Click here to go to the Better Business Bureau website.
  2. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click the button “Start Your  Complaint.

What to Expect Once you Submit your Complaint to the BBB

  • The BBB will forward your complaint to the company within 2 business days.
  • The company will be asked to respond within 14 days, and if a response is not received, a second request will be made.
  • You will be notified of the company’s response when the BBB receives it (or notified that they received no response).
  • Complaints against companies are usually closed within 30 business days.
What to do if no agreement is reached after a BBB complaint? You may want to try suing in a California small claims court

California Small Claims Court

What types of lawsuits can be filed against a business in small claims?

Many types of lawsuits can be filed against a business, the most common lawsuits are over:

  • Used and new car sales
  • Disputes with phone companies (bills, overcharges, returns)
  • Disputes against any business for their product or service
  • Deceptive advertising
  • When you buy a good or service from a business but the business does not deliver it.

Small Claims Court Limits

To be able to file a small claims court lawsuit in California, you are capped at the amount you can sue for, also known as "small claims court limits."


How much can you sue for in small claims

If you are owed for more than the amount you can sue for, you can still sue for the maximum amount allowed, but you will need to waive any additional amount over the limit.


What are the California Small Claims Court Filing Fees?

The amount you will pay to file a small claims lawsuit in California depends on how much you are suing for. You will pay between $30 to $75 to file the lawsuit. If cannot afford to pay court fees, you can ask the court to waive the fees.  


How much does it cost to sue in small claims court?
Small Claims Filing Fees


What are other costs for Small Claims Court?

In most small claims cases, you can expect to pay:

If you win, you can request that the losing party pay for your court fees and serving costs.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do I need a lawyer to go to court? No, in fact, California does not allow lawyers to represent you at the initial small claims hearing.
  • What are small claims hearings like in California? The hearings are quick and on average are 10-15 minutes. Learn more here.
  • How long does small claims take? A court usually schedules the small claims hearing no later than 70 days from when the lawsuit is filed. Learn more here.
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