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Reaching complaint deadlock – do you give up or carry on?

Complaining cartoon character

Complaining can be tiresome – a time-consuming jungle of paperwork and unfruitful conversations. When it goes on for months without a resolution, there can come a point where it feels easier to just give up…

You’re an explorer in a new found land, thick with jungle and predators. You battle through the unfriendly foliage and, worn out from a two-month long sea voyage, you come to a sandy clearing. It’s been tough and you’re close to turning back…

You take a deep breath, step forward and come face-to-face with the island chief. He tells you that in order to continue, you will have to find another route and as he does so, he points to a dark tunnel heading yet deeper into the jungle. You have no idea where the new path will lead you. It’s deadlock, the chief won’t let you continue along his path and your only option is to take the unknown other route. What do you do, give up, or carry on?

Taking complaints to the next level

If you had a complaint with a company or organisation that reached a point of deadlock, where neither of you could agree on a resolution, what would you do? Would you know what your options were as a consumer? Would you know the different paths you could take?

I’m sure you’ve heard of Ombudsmen, but would you be likely to turn to one in a situation of deadlock? Or is this a dark unknown path you’d think twice before going down? Tell us all about it in the comments below, or get involved in our research.

Take part in our complaints research

In partnership with a research agency called The Behavioural Architects, we’re doing some online research into the complaints process, looking at alternative dispute resolution options such as Ombudsmen. We want to know how aware people are of their options and what might hold people back or encourage them to carry on.

We’re looking to speak to people who have recently used an Ombudsmen service to resolve a dispute. We also want to speak to people who have recently been through an extended complaints process with a company or organisation, that didn’t come to a resolution after eight weeks or more.

If you’re one of these people and are interested in taking part in our research at the end of August, please send an email to kat@thebearchitects.com with ‘Which? complaints research’ in the subject line to find out more. If you take part in the research, you’ll receive £90 to thank you for your time. But more importantly, you’ll be helping us make the complaints process more usable and accessible to the people that need it.


I am glad this subject has arisen as complaining to Which? is indeed a painful process.

The iniquity of a system where a Best Buy has 4 times as many complaints as any other electric steamer but despite many subscribers complaining remains a Which? Best Buy surely represents a failed system.

For people unaware of the subject it is the Logiks model.

I have erred by not mentioning that I have been mentioning this to Which? Trustees and staff since last year since I believe the reputation of Which? requires some kind of response to subscribers who after all pay for the organisation to exist.

Now we have a Community Forum I have posted there and suggested that they survey Connect members as to if they have a steam cooker and Brand, usage and reliability. Unfortunately three months after my suggestion the May Small Appliance Reliability survey did not ask this question. Therefore we have no idea if 22 people have been very unlucky or in fact the Logik – L90SSS11 is badly flawed for continued use and definitely should not be a Best Buy

Hi Diesel, thanks for the comment. I think the member forum team are helping you with this, but thought I’d share the following based on your feedback about negative member reviews on Best Buys.

As you know, we carry out the most thorough product tests in the UK but our tests can’t uncover long term faults. To that end we carry out annual reliability surveys – and we won’t give a best buy if these scores are too low. We do take member reviews very seriously – our researchers read the reviews, will look into concerns raised and will add comments when they think it will be helpful. One thing to watch out for is that someone who has a bad experience with a product is more likely to post a review than someone who has had no problems at all. Your particular complaints about the Logik model is being looked into by our research team.

And we do like hearing from members, even it’s a complaint, as this can drive improvements where possible. Just get in touch with our member services team right here: http://www.which.co.uk/about-which/contact-us/

Ooh and diesel, I sent you an email last week, not sure if you got it.

This particular conversation is about alternative dispute resolutions, such as going to an Ombudsman, so we’d really love to hear about any experiences people have had to help with our research.

Thanks for the response Patrick.. Perhaps you could re-send your previous e-mail to me.

I fully realise that Which? commissioned testing does not give the testing companies the remit of finding out long term faults or durability of parts . In the case of electric steamers it seems a large number last less than a year. Readers, who ARE providing the long term testing that Which? does not do, are providing the information to you.

diesel, I see that Which? Connect have just asked members to report on the Logik L90SSS11 Steamer. I assume this relates to your complaint on the community website about a “Best Buy” but with poor user reviews. Well done – someone listens! 🙂

: )

It has been a long long time coming and inexplicable really why they do not have a monitoring system for this type of problem.

Unfortunately the survey does not ask about usage so I have written suggesting that unless it does it will be flawed. As many can imagine you may be given a steamer as a gift and used it once whereas others may use it daily or weekly. This rather has a bearing on the answers they will receive. It is a question they managed to ask last year with sewing machines survey so is not a novel concept.

This survey also missed a trick by not asking about the other seven steamers that Which? has tested. That would really have been interesting as the mechanical versus digital timer divide may have been resolved. AND revealed the general and specific longevity in “use”.

I have also analysed 100 and one Revoo responses out of the 186 available at Curry’s site about the Logiks. You will not be totally astonished to learn that after a months ownership the vast majority were happy. The most rated response was for a chap who complained about the USB connectors which I thinks proves that Revoo does not pick up rogue reviews.

The other interesting think is that because the reviews are dated as to when bought and response we can see the rough amount of sales and 286 in total does not suggest we are dealing in tens of thousands and makes the equal random chance of someone complaining on Which? – who has to be a subscriber , be a web user, and bought the Logiks – reasonably valid.

Overall though there were some people who had pretty immediate problems also otherwise ti may have been a pointless exercises of 9’s and 10’s.

Dave mac says:
8 August 2015

Last year I helped a friend in a dispute regarding replacement of faulty iphones, we eventually used an independent arbitration service, they took the case on and agreed a satisfactory solution with compensation between my friend and Vodafone so that worked, however; when you come to HMRC where you have no ombudsman, no independent arbitration and waiting time of up to 6 months just to get a reply to your letters, hows about setting up a crusade for that.

Looks like you had better be a very patient man to get through HMRC and then to an MP.

How the Parliamentary Ombudsman can help

We help resolve complaints about government departments and other public bodies. Our service is free. We’re independent, not part of Government, and our powers are set down in law.
We will usually only look into a complaint after the organisation you’re unhappy with has had a chance to try to sort it out.

If you’ve completed all stages of their complaints procedure and are still unhappy, contact an MP and ask them to send your complaint to us. Having your complaint sent to us by either your local MP or any other MP is a legal requirement. You can find MPs’ contact details at ww.parliament.uk.

By law, you should normally take your complaint to an MP within a year of when you first became aware of the problem. If it was more than a year ago, we may still be able to help you, if there
were good reasons for the delay.

If we decide the organisation has got things wrong, we can tell them how to put things right. This could mean apologising to you, giving you a better explanation of their actions or taking other
steps to resolve your complaint and put things right.”

Complaining of cold calling seems to have reached a deadlock with Which?

Even all the very valid reasons and reports seem to have fallen on deaf ears. I carry on hoping Which? will explain why they support them and who the reputable companies are that should be allowed to carry on harassing us.

But I won’t give up hoping for them to stop and will carry on living in hope that we will have peace in our homes from these morons one day.

I have purchased a BT phone recently recommended by Which. BT8500. Brilliant – it screens all incoming calls and stops the nuisance calls from getting through. Much better than the call blocker box which I had before. This will give you the peace and quiet you deserve.

Lucy says:
16 August 2015

I bought a cheap smart phone from Virgin (I am on a rolling contract with them) – it took me a while to realise it was faulty …I’m not a heavy user and it randomly reboots, it was only when it did it whilst I was trying to use it that I realised it was a fault and not part of an update process or something. I also realised I don’t get texts for hours sometimes. I reported the fault after a month and 3 days -too late apparently for an automatic replacement – so I did everything their technical department told me to -factory resets, battery drains, a new sim card, remove SD card etc etc….a lot of the things took time and often meant I had to set the phone up again etc. Finally I was told I had to send it in to them for repair – a minimum of 4 working days . So I would have no phone (with delivery time) for the best part of a week and they won’t provide a temporary replacement handset. They expected me to have one hanging around that I can use that is compatible with a virgin SIM – I didn’t have. Bad enough to sell something faulty …but they have massively inconvenienced me as well.
I spoke to trading standards (part of CAB? now) and followed their process – I got replies that showed they obviously hadn’t even read my letter …eg telling me to phone technical services or check out their phone fix on the web – hmm – dragged on for another 6 weeks or so – finally I just gave up.
It took me a while to find a time where having a phone (emergency contact for my children /travelling etc) wasn’t as essential…then someone gave me an virgin phone I could use. So (8 months later) I sent my phone in to them (another factory reset)….posted it last Wed – not due back till tomorrow. And on Friday they contacted me to say they couldn’t find a fault with it – it must be something I had put on the phone (odd cos I have the same applications on a tablet running the same version of android -no problems and no really obscure ones). I should have been advised that before and when I get it back set up accounts and add applications one by one – leaving a few days between installing each to see which (if any) is causing the problem and if I still have a problem after that I could send it back to them and they will look at it again…another week…
To say I am furious is an understatement….I have wasted so much time and effort and I know that it is pointless complaining – I will probably give up and buy a new phone …
At the moment I still have the rolling contract with them as does my daughter – my plan was to get the phone fixed/replaced and then get it unlocked and move provider – as it is the new phone will be with another provider…I will never use them again (I will move my daughter too).
Perhaps the biggest insult is that it was a very cheap phone (mainly cos I am with them). I have been with them for 10yrs + – this is the 5th phone I have bought off them (3 for me and 2 for my daughter) and all this hassle over a faulty £30 phone … I can’t see why they couldn’t just replace it …appalling customer service.

Lucy, the Sale of Good Act (as explained to retailers by Trading Standards) says:

“Requesting a repair or replacement
If a customer has accepted the goods and is requesting a repair or replacement because the goods are faulty, the onus on who is required to prove the problem depends on how long ago they purchased the item. Under six months – the customer does not have to prove the item was faulty when they bought it from you. If you disagree it is up to you, the retailer, to prove the item did conform to contract (or that the fault did not exist) at the time of sale.Over six months – you are entitled to ask the customer to prove the item was faulty when they bought it from you. If they are
able to do this they are entitled to a repair or replacement.”
“Any refund, repair or replacement you arrange with your customer relating to faulty goods must not cause them too much inconvenience and you will have to pay for other costs, for example, collection or delivery.”

It seems to me Virgin mislead you on your rights – which is illegal. The crucial point seems to be whether an app you installed caused the fault, but if it is a widely used app with no general problems then Virgin would have been in some difficulty.

We really need Which? to educate people as to their legal rights under SoGA (or the Consumer Rights Act that is replacing it). So many of these conversations show people with valid complaints who are simply fobbed off by retailers because they are not aware of their rights. Perhaps some sort of a super complaint from Which? about the way retailers abuse SoGA would not come amiss?

Lucy – You have reported the fault well within the six month period mentioned by Malcolm and assuming that the same problem is present, I believe you should be entitled to a free repair or a replacement phone.

Some years ago I bought a cheap Nokia PAYG phone to keep in the car for emergency or to use if I had left my normal mobile at home. The first time I tried to use it, there was no power in the battery and I assumed I had left it switched on. I recharged it, put it in the car and a couple of weeks later I had the same problem. I took it back to Currys and when they returned it the battery went flat again. I swapped the battery and that failed to cure the problem. Eventually I realised that the battery was discharging whether or not the phone was switched off. Back to Currys and they could find nothing wrong, and they were not prepared to replace the phone, which was several months old by then. I went back to the store when another manager was on duty and he replaced it without question and apologised for the hassle. This is not the only time that being polite but persistent has paid off.

It’s always worth keeping a record of times and dates and the names of people you have been dealing with, even if you only know their first names.

Best of luck.

Lee Newlyni says:
21 August 2015

BT TV and Broadband arrived yesterday and I was so looking forward to it . Today we are very please with BT Hub 5 infinity is great . But we can’t use the TV . We had an aerial as required but it turns out the aerial is linked to a local transmitter which is poor quality . Hence we can’t receive BT TV free view channels . I spoke to BT and after two calls lasting 50 minutes each I was told it was my rrsponsibility to have an effective aerial . I asked to cancel the TV part of the package and was outside the 14 days cooling off period ( which expired before the equipment arrived ) .they said it would cost a penalty of £250.79 pence to cancel it .

Does anyone have experience of dealing with BT and how to get to a more senior level . My issue is that I did not know the aerial would not be effective and BT literature only asks for an aerial to be available . Help ?