What's a consumer complaint letter about being sold fake or counterfeit goods (England and Wales), and when do you need one?
Use this letter when you want to raise a complaint, for the first time, about being sold a fake/counterfeit product by a business in England and Wales.
If you’re a business wanting to complain about another business, not a consumer, please use our separate business complaints suites.
If you want to complain about faulty goods instead, see our separate complaint template letter: Consumer letter complaining about faulty goods.
Whatever your complaint, it’s always advisable to give the seller a chance to remedy the situation and this letter is drafted for that purpose.
Faulty goods and your consumer rightsConsumers buying from a business seller are legally entitled to goods that:
- are ‘of a satisfactory quality’
- match their description at/before the point of sale
- are suitable (‘fit’) for the purpose for they are described as intended, and
- last for a reasonable amount of time
These rights are triggered if what you bought is:
- broken or damaged ('not of satisfactory quality')
- unusable (‘not fit for purpose’)
- not what was advertised, or doesn’t match the seller’s description – and this is whether fake goods come in.
You’re entitled to a refund – though the extent of that refund will depend on how long you’ve had the item(s) and how much you’ve used them.
Full refund within 30 days of buying it: If you bought the item after 1 October 2015, (which is when the Consumer Rights Act 2015 came into force), you have a legal right to receive a full refund on fake goods within 30 days of paying for them.
A genuine replacement or a full refund between 30 days and 6 months: If you’re not raising your complaint until between 30 days and 6 months have passed from the purchase date, the seller is legally entitled to offer you a genuine version of the fake product. But if they can’t do so, then they have to give you a refund.
More than 6 months after your purchase date: Complaints brought after 6 months from the purchase date, mean that you’re legally entitled to a partial refund, the amount of which will depend on how long you’ve had the item and how much you’ve used it.
Card payments and the chargeback scheme
If the supplier doesn’t reply to your satisfaction or pay you the sum to which you’re entitled, you may be able to enlist your bank for help if you paid for the item by credit or debit card, or Paypal’s resolution centre, if relevant).
Ask your bank to apply their ‘chargeback scheme’ to your circumstances. Many banks operate one, but not all bank staff are familiar with it, so you might need to get a manager’s help to process it. Card companies like Visa, Mastercard and American Express actually run the process and it typically applies to any card with their logo: credit, debit and even prepaid. However, you have to go through your card issuer – usually your bank or building society – to apply for it.
This scheme enables you to reverse a card pay transaction, in your favour, with the bank taking the money back from the retailer’s account, and putting it in yours again, provided they’re satisfied that the supplier has breached their contract with you. It’s not a legally mandated scheme, but many banks subscribe to it. The retailer can of course challenge this action and seek to prove that it’s not valid.
If you paid by card and the item cost you over £100, you have even more rights under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, which makes the card company jointly responsible, alongside the supplier, for any breach of contract (i.e. the supply of faulty goods) or misrepresentation by the supplier.
If you want to use the chargeback scheme or take action under Section 75, you don’t have to wait. You can do that straightaway – something that can really help if your supplier is ignoring you/may have gone out of business. But you will need to prove that your supplier has breached your rights. Find out more here.
Most businesses these days have a website on which they display their contact details and often, the terms and conditions under which they sell (even if they’re not selling online). Take a look at these as they may (and ideally should) contain information about how you can complain to them and the time frames and rights they give you.
Keep copies of all your correspondence and any attached documents, such as receipts, copies of guarantees/warranties that you have activated (if relevant), etc. Some businesses will have self-imposed, or legally imposed deadlines for responding to you and for resolving your complaint. If they refer to these deadlines in their documentation, make sure you reference them in this letter too.
Taking your complaint further
If you’re not satisfied with the response you get from the supplier, then you can:
- find out if they have an ombudsman or other professional standards body to whom you can complain (sadly there isn’t really one for standard retailers); or
- you could consider complaining to Trading Standards; (Bear in mind, though, that your local trading standards department's role is to address the issue with the retailer, and to prosecute for criminal and/or other unlawful activity, not to get your money back), or
- you might, depending on the circumstances, want to report the seller to Action Fraud, who will register the seller on their national fraud database or to the police if the fake goods have caused bodily injury to you or to someone else, or
- depending on the supplier’s terms, suggest alternative dispute resolution/mediation,
- try to rely on your card or payment provider for help under the ‘chargeback scheme’, if you paid by a credit or debit card, you used a provider like Paypal, or your purchase was financed by a hire purchase company.
- Finally, you can consider a claim brought in the courts, though this can be costly and take some time to be heard.
Before taking any of those steps, you may want to see if you can get the seller to provide you with what’s often called a ‘letter of deadlock’, essentially, a letter confirming that the seller has not been able to resolve your complaint and you remain dissatisfied.
This is a key piece of evidence, in your favour, that supports you seeking assistance from the above solution providers, proving that you have reasonably tried to reach a resolution on your own and been unable to do so. If you can’t get one, it doesn’t mean that you can’t complain to any of these dispute solution providers, but having it will typically help to speed matters up.
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, you have 6 years to bring a faulty goods claim in the courts. Scotland has a 5-year time limit. That doesn’t mean that the goods you bought need to last 6 (or 5 years), simply that you won’t be able to bring claim about these faulty goods once these time periods have expired.
Help now and later
If you’d like help with your complaint and/or considering your options, you can use our speak to an adviser service, where a qualified expert can talk you through your options, and help you to decide the right next steps for you. Our guide: how to bring a consumer complaint against a business, contains more background and instructions on the wider context of consumer complaints and what to expect.