Letter (before action) complaining about goods or services supplied by another business (letter of claim)

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What's a third letter (before action) complaining about goods or services supplied by another business and when do you need it?

This is a template letter of claim for where no specific pre-action protocol applies. Before you use it, our expert partners recommend that you should have used, or at least carefully considered using, our earlier first and second letters of complaint.

Pre-action protocol means the Civil Procedure Rules, which govern court proceedings, set out and various Pre-Action Protocols. These explain the sorts of steps, and conduct of the parties, that the court will expect to see, in particular circumstances, before people start a formal court complaint action. The idea is to try to resolve matters sensibly and efficiently without the parties automatically resorting to court action.

The current Protocols are found here:http://www.justice.gov.uk/courts/procedure-rules/civil/protocol. Where none of those specific protocols apply, there is a general court 'Practice Direction' that covers all other cases. That can be found here:http://www.justice.gov.uk/courts/procedure-rules/civil/rules/pd_pre-action_conduct, and also covers how the courts expect complainants to conduct the early stages of their complaint in all other cases. Those who follow the directions provided here are more likely to succeed, or at least, to have a smoother complaint experience.

There is a big push in government circles to encourage people to use these types of letter. The idea is to ensure that disagreeing people or businesses understand each other's positions and to encourage settlement discussions, so that issuing court proceedings is always a last resort. That has succeeded, and increasing numbers of cases resolve following these types of letters areas.

These suites of letters are geared towards contract claims – defective goods, a negligent supply of services and so on. They aren't really suitable for injury cases. That's a specialist legal area.

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 from our expert partner 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.

This template is for business complainants only. It can be adapted for complaints relating to the supply of goods or services.