This suite of templates covers sales of goods between two businesses. They're not appropriate for use by a consumer who wishes to complain about goods that it has bought from a business and if your complainant is a consumer, you'll need to alter your reply as well.
(See our guide to goods, services and consumer rights for more background and help on handling complaints about your services from consumers.)
If you want to complain about goods not having been delivered at all, or goods being delivered too late for your purposes, you’ll need our separate suite of templates for these scenarios.
And if you're the business being complained about, you should refer to our guide to handling complaints about goods that you've supplied.
Check the terms of your contract first
The very first starting point for checking your rights and being able to enforce them, is what's written in the contract that you have with the supplier. These terms might be set out in the supplier's terms and conditions (which you may or may not have been able to negotiate ahead of buying the goods), or they may be contained in a more substantial sale of goods contract that you've negotiated for your business.
Terms and conditions can be displayed on the walls in a business operating out of a premises, on their website, in a brochure, on packaging, even on the back of an order form, invoice or receipt.
The supplier should not obscure them from you.
However the terms are presented, read them through thoroughly before you start to draft or communicate anything.
Striking the right tone
It can be intensely annoying to spend time and effort choosing what you need, only to find that what you end up with is not at all what you wanted. But venting your frustrations, on social media or in written correspondence, rarely gets the optimum outcome.
Be concise, factual and unemotional in any communications that you choose to send or to publish. It can help to reach out via customer service channels that some suppliers run via social media, customer call-lines and website live chat features can also help resolve well-presented complaints rapidly. You may find you don't need to send anything as formal as the template letters in this suite.
But if the troublesome goods you've received are high value and/or high volume and/or important to your business, and if you're ready to get going with a more formal approach, let's take a look at how you can use the templates that Farillio and Wilkes have created for you.
For a quick and friendly expert view on your position and your prospects of success at any stage, as well as how best to draft any of the letters in this series, simply select our Speak to an Adviser feature and we’ll rapidly match you with the right expert to get you the help you need.
Template Letter 1 - there's a problem with the goods you've purchased, let's get that complaint letter sent
You should use this template letter at the start of any correspondence with a supplier who has provided your business with goods that you consider to be faulty, damaged or not what you requested.
The template contains plenty of helpful guidance covering your rights as a customer and the standards by which the law typically holds your supplier to account. The terms of the contract between you both will also be key to determining what rights you may rely on in bringing your complaint and getting it resolved.
Let's look at some of these elements.
Goods must be of satisfactory quality and 'fit for purpose'
The terms implied by the Sale of Goods Act require that goods sold to you must be as described, of satisfactory quality, and fit for purpose.
‘Fit for purpose’ means that the goods can be used everyday, for the reasons they are intended, as well as suitable for any specific additional purpose that the seller told you they would be suitable, e.g. if a salesperson tells you that a printer will be compatible with your laptop, or that a particular paint will be appropriate to paint a radiator or a bathroom.
Goods sold must also match any samples that you were shown and any catalogue descriptions.
The only exception to this rule is if a defect or issue was specifically pointed out to you before you ordered or bought the goods.
So, if you inspected the goods and had the chance to notice (but didn’t) that they were not satisfactory or fit for purpose, and that this would have been reasonably obvious to most people like you, then you’d have a hard time arguing that the goods were not acceptable to you on grounds of being unfit for purpose or of unsatisfactory quality.
But if defects or issues were obscured from you, or would not have been obvious (i.e. you couldn’t open the packaging or see through it, before you bought the product, then you’d be on good grounds to make the argument set out in this template letter.
Replacements instead of refunds
The template prioritises a request by you for a refund from your supplier. However, if you'd prefer to have a replacement, then you can either handle the situation a bit more informally at this stage, and simply call or email the supplier to request this, or you can select the alternative wording offered with the template.
Whether the goods will be collected, or the supplier will reimburse you for the costs of returning them is another key point covered by the template. The precise solution will depend on the nature of the goods themselves and how you purchased and received them. There's no reason you should end up out of pocket and it's not at all unreasonable to request that the supplier resolve the collection or return of the unsatisfactory items for you.
How long do you wait before chasing for a reply?
If there is no reply within 7 days (or sooner), our experts recommend that you follow-up by phone, letter or email, to check that your letter was received and to seek confirmation about how your supplier is handling it.
Template Letter 2 - the supplier's rejected your complaint, it's time to reassert your rights
This is the second template complaint letter where a supplier has rejected your complaint that it provided your business with goods that you consider to be faulty, damaged or not what you requested - or failed to address your complaint to your satisfaction.
In this letter, you're pretty much repeating the claims that you made in your first letter. If you requested a replacement first time around, but that hasn't arrived or you're still not happy, you may want to select the optional refund wording this time instead. The choice is yours.
Template Letter 3 - the letter that threatens court action if resolution isn't reached
If the supplier still hasn't addressed your complaint as you wish, this is third and final letter that you can send and it sets out the details of your formal claim against the supplier. At this point, you're going to need to decide whether you're prepared for a legal battle, and that's not a decision to take lightly, as legal proceedings cost money and can also be a huge distraction from everyday business needs.
Some people are happy to deal with matters themselves at this stage, others prefer to involve a lawyer. It's really down to their judgement of the situation, and the use of common sense. The main advice would be to not say anything in these letters that you wouldn't be happy for the court to later see, and that you’d find difficult to justify to the court. Ideally keep the tone measured, and stick to factual comments.
If you're set on going ahead, you can use this template.
This is a template letter of claim for where no specific pre-action protocol applies. We've explained more about this below.
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