Letters that get results

Making a complaint requires time, effort and often a bit of patience.
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  • Updated:10 May 2005

01 .Writing works

typing on a laptop

*On 1 January 2011, a new national Australian Consumer Law regime came into effect. Please see our article or go to http://www.accc.gov.au/consumerrights for information on these changes.

Sometimes you can simply pick up the phone and resolve the issue fairly quickly. But on other occasions you may have to write a letter outlining your concerns before the organisation takes you seriously.

That’s where the CHOICE Book Put It In Writing can help. Written by Margaret White, it offers tips on making a complaint and writing letters that get results.

It also presents 120 well-considered, cool and commanding letters to retailers, car dealers, builders, government agencies, insurance companies, lenders and many more. There’s even practical advice about what rights you have in those situations, and a list of useful contacts.

Some tips

So when you need to complain, consider these tips from Put It In Writing:

  • Know your rights before you complain and show it in your letter.
  • Work out what you want (say a refund, compensation or apology) before you complain.
  • Complain to the person you have the problem with but, if they don’t have the authority to handle the matter, go to the manager or person in charge.
  • Keep the letter simple, short and straightforward, and write it in clear and easy-to-read language.
  • Let the person you’re writing to know you understand their point of view, too.
  • Get straight to the point in the first paragraph and carefully plan what you want to say in the rest of the letter.
  • Enclose copies (not originals) of relevant documents, such as bills, quotes, receipts and invoices.
  • If you’re sending a message by fax or email, present the information as carefully as you would in a letter.

To see some sample letters from Put It In Writing, click here.

You can buy Put it in Writing, 3rd edition, by Margaret White, from the CHOICE Online Shop.

Please note: this information was current as of May 2005 but is still a useful guide to today's market.


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Letter rejecting faulty goods


Re: [make and model]

On [date] I bought the above [item] from your shop. On [date] it developed serious defects [describe problems].

I understand that, as a consumer, I am entitled to expect that the things I buy are of merchantable quality. I am sure you will agree that the [item] I bought was not of reasonable quality, considering the above problems.

I am, therefore, asking you for a refund of the [amount] I paid for the [item] [Or to replace the item with another in good working order.]

I trust that this matter can be resolved quickly and look forward to your early reply.

Yours sincerely


Letter rejecting the seller's denial of liability


Re: [make and model]

Thank you for your letter dated [date] regarding my claim for a replacement [item] [or refund the price of my faulty item].

Unfortunately, I cannot accept your suggestion that I should complain to the manufacturer.

My contract with you, the seller of the [item], includes, as a matter of law, an implied warranty that the [item] is of merchantable quality. The fact that it is not means that you are in breach of contract. I am, therefore, entitled to expect you to put the matter right.

My claim against you is unaffected by any rights I may have under the manufacturer's guarantee.

I trust this clarifies the position. Please let me know within seven days of receipt of this letter whether you intend to repair or replace the [item] [or give me a refund]. I am sure you will understand that this problem is causing me considerable inconvenience.

Yours sincerely


Letter rejecting a landscaper's bill for more than the original quote


Re: [quotation number]

I was surprised to see from your invoice [number] of [date] that you have charged me [amount] for [describe work and materials]. Since your original quotation stated that the cost would be [amount], I assume that your invoice was a mistake.

I am aware that the prices quoted for plants and stone were estimates only and I agree that I must pay what these cost you. The amount quoted for the work, however, was a fixed price and it was on the basis of this that I entered into a contract with you.

Though you claim that the increase is due to [describe reasons], there was no allowance for an increase to cover this eventuality in our contract. We did not agree that I would bear the cost of such eventualities. I am only liable for the amount shown in your quotation.

I therefore enclose a cheque for [amount], being the amount originally quoted for carrying out the work plus the actual cost of materials, in full and final settlement of your account.

Yours sincerely


Letter to a hairdresser about unsatisfactory service causing additional damage


Re: [services undertaken]

On [date] I attended your salon to have [describe the nature of the services requested].

I was most unhappy with the work done by you [Outline problems].

You attempted to rectify the problems on [date], but this was not successful [explain why].

I then went to another hairdresser, [name], who explained to me what had gone wrong. I asked him/her to put this in writing, and I enclose a copy for your information. This report indicates that you did not use due care and skill and were, therefore, in breach of your contract with me.

I not only had to have the work re-done but I also had to have [explain extra service] to repair the damage that you did to my hair. The total cost was [amount]. A copy of my receipt is enclosed.

This incident has cost me a lot of time as well as money and I have been very embarrassed by it. I expect that you will reimburse me for this amount and look forward to receiving your cheque.

Yours sincerely 


Letter to The Banking and Financial Services Ombudsman

[For intervention in a dispute.]

Dear Sir or Madam

Re: [bank, branch and account number]

I am involved in a dispute with the above bank, which I have been unable to settle by negotiating directly with them. I hope that you will be able to assist.

Briefly, the facts of the matter are these: [briefly, but fully, outline the nature of the dispute, including dates].

Enclosed are copies of [any relevant documents].

You have my authority to obtain any further information from the bank which you think might be relevant.

I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely


From Put It In Writing by Margaret White