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Have you been harmed by a business located in New York City? In New York, you can file a complaint against a business with the New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP). Please note that the DCWP changed its name and was formerly known as the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA). Some information on their website may still use the name NYC Department of Consumer Affairs or DCA instead of DCWP, but it is the same organization. To learn more about the DCWP, how to file a complaint against a business in NYC, and other ways to handle disputes against businesses read the article below.
What is the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection
The DCWP is the main consumer protection agency for NYC and is responsible for filing and mediating consumer affairs complaints against businesses. The DCWP licenses more than 51,000 businesses in more than 40 industries and enforces consumer protections through laws and regulations. Most importantly, the DCWP helps consumers who are having problems with a business through its complaint and mediation process.
Common Types of Complaints Filed With the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection
The DCWP handles a wide variety of complaints in NYC.
Here are examples of consumer complaints filed with the DCWP:
Complaints against used car dealerships. For example, you bought a used car from a used car dealership. The car dealership assured you that the car was road-worthy and even though used was in good condition. However, the first time you drive it on the highway the used car turns off. At this point, you can file a complaint against the used car dealership.
Complaints against laundromats. For example, if your clothing has been lost or damaged by a dry cleaner or laundromat, you can claim compensation. Although many businesses put up signs on their windows claiming they will not be culpable if an item was lost or damaged, this is not necessarily true. If after reaching out to the business they are unwilling to reimburse you or at the very minimum offer to pay you the value of the item when it was left under their care, then you can consider filing a claim with the DCWP.
Complaints against contractors. Other complaints that the DCWP encounters frequently are those regarding contractors. For example, if you hired a contracting business to add an extension to your home and you arranged a loan with them they now refuse to honor you can file a complaint with DCWP. In this example, not only were you harmed but it is illegal for contractors to arrange or offer to arrange home improvement loans for you.
NYC Check License Status allows consumers to check if a business is licensed under the DCWP. You can also call 311, or 212-NEW-YORK if you are outside NYC, and ask to be transferred to DCWP to learn more about a business’s license status or to check a business’s complaint history.
When Can I File a Complaint With the DCWP?
New Yorkers that have a problem with a business may file a complaint with the DCWP.
Here are some requirements for consumer affairs complaints filed with the NY DCWP:
The DCWP will not take any complaint from an individual against another individual.
They also don’t take complaints by a business against another business.
Generally, the business you are filing a complaint about must be located in NYC.
For certain industries, the DCWP may be able to handle your complaint even if the business your filing a complaint against is located outside NYC.
For example, if you file a complaint against home improvement contractors located outside of NYC, the DCWP may still be able to assist you as long as the home in question is located within NYC.
If you have a problem with a business outside of the city that the DCWP does not handle, consider filing a complaint with the New York State Attorney General. Learn more about filing a complaint against a business with the New York Attorney General.
Below is a list of some of the industries the DCWP handles consumer complaints for:
Debt Settlement Companies
Garages and Parking Lots
Secondhand Auto Dealers
Street Vendors (non-food)
Used Car Dealers
Storage Warehouses (not self-storage)
There are also some industries that the DCWP handles complaints for, but only for specific issues. For example, the DCWP will handle hotel industry complaints but only if they relate to contract disputes.
For a full list of industries handled by the DCWP check out the link here. Remember, they recently changed their name from the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs to the DCWP.
If you do not see the industry for which you’d like to file a complaint listed either in the link or on our list, call 311 or go to NYC 311 to find the appropriate agency that can handle your complaint. You can also consider taking the business to NY small claims court.
Steps for Filing a Complaint With the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection
You can file a complaint with the DCWP online through their website or by mail or fax. Below are the steps to file a complaint with the DCWP.
Filing a Complaint Online
To file a complaint online, you must first register an account with the City of New York using the link here.
If you don’t want to create an account, you can also submit an online complaint at 311 online.
Filing a Complaint by Mail or Fax
To file a complaint by mail download and complete the complaint form found under “Ways to file a Consumer Complaint”.
Submit TWO copies (not the originals) of the completed form and related documents (e.g., store receipts, warranties, contracts, etc.) to the mailing address or fax (212) 487-4482.
DCWP Mailing Address:
NYC Department of Consumer and Worker Protection
Consumer Services Division
42 Broadway, 9th Floor
New York, NY 10004Fax:
It is very important that you provide your contact information in your complaint. If you do not provide your contact information the DWCP will consider your complaint a tip instead of a formal complaint.
What Happens After You File a Complaint With the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection
Are you unsure of what to expect once you file your complaint with the DCWP? We have laid out the DCWP complaint process below.
After filing your complaint, the DCWP will review the details in your complaint and any supporting documentation you have included to make sure they are able to assist with your complaint.
If after filing your complaint you have not heard from the DCWP after 45 days, call 311 and ask to check the status of your complaint.
If the DCWP cannot help you, they will point you in the right direction to a government agency that may. If the DCWP is able to help you, they will proceed with your complaint.
The DCWP will send a copy of your complaint to the business for a written response.
After you file a consumer complaint with the DCWP, the DCWP may ask you and the business to try and mediate your dispute. You should expect a phone call from a mediator.Mediation is a meeting between you, the other party, and a neutral person called a mediator. Mediation is used as a tool to see if the parties can come together and solve their problem with a mutually agreeable solution
If you don’t reach an agreement with the business at mediation, an Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH) Hearing Officer will hear the complaint, or you may be able to sue the business in a NY small claims court.
Review this information sheet for more about what happens to your claim once it has been filed.
Consider Sending a Demand Letter to a Business
Besides filing a NYC consumer affairs complaint, you may want to consider sending a demand letter to a business to settle your dispute against them as it is quicker. A demand letter is a letter outlining a set of requests you would like the business to fulfill. Learn how to write a well-crafted demand letter and use our free demand letter tool.
Consider Suing a Business in New York Small Claims Court
If your consumer complaint goes nowhere, you may also want to consider filing a small claims lawsuit against a business in a New York City small claims court. Small claims courts handle a wide variety of disputes against businesses. This includes lawsuits between consumers over billing disputes, refund denials, poor workmanship, etc.
In New York City small claims, you can sue a business for a maximum of $10,000. This is known as the small claims “limit.” You can only sue for money in NYC small claims court, which means that you cannot sue a business to force them to do something or return your property. For example, if an auto repair shop damaged your car you can sue them for the damage but you cannot sue the auto repair shop to force them to fix your car.
Legal Educator @ People Clerk. Claudia is a lawyer and certified mediator in New York and Florida. She has participated in dozens of small claims mediations in New York City courts