Filing a Formal Complaint

If working with the company directly to resolve a problem with a product or service gets you nowhere, you may have to file a formal complaint. Formal complaints to the appropriate state or federal government agency is not only a good idea to protect your rights, but is also important if you're dealing with a defective or potentially dangerous product.

Make Your Complaint Stand Out

When filing a complaint, remain factual and try not to include extraneous information. Government agencies, while sympathetic to your issue, can't really do much for hassles such as inconvenience, time spent dealing with a company, etc. They can, however, step in on your behalf to enforce the law. So keep things as brief as possible while outlining the facts in a clear and concise manner. Once you submit your complaint, you can't change it.

If you have any documentation, submit a copy with your complaint. Be sure to organize your documentation in such a way that it is easy to understand and follow, such as by numbering each page and referring to it by page number in your complaint. The government employees reading your complaint don't want to spend twenty minutes trying to figure out which piece of documentation you're referring to in your complaint. The quicker they can read and understand your complaint, the quicker they can respond to you!

Where to File

Where to file a complaint depends upon the product or service involved. Food, for example, is regulated by a different organization than vehicles. Depending upon the nature of the issue, you can and should file complaints on both the state and federal level.

Most Consumer Issues

Many general consumer issues fall under control of the North Carolina Attorney General's Office. To file a complaint with the North Carolina Attorney General's Office.

Food, Drugs, Cosmetics and Medical Devices

Meat, poultry and egg products fall under control of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS). Some meat products that are processed in North Carolina are the responsibility of state inspectors. For the most part, FSIS handles these claims.

File a complaint online or call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854)

Packaged foods, produce and fish are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In North Carolina, complaints can be handled by the agriculture department's food and drug division.

The FDA also regulates drugs, cosmetics andmedical devices.

To report a complaint that did not result in injury or illness, contact the complaint coordinator for your state (complete list here).

For instances that did result in injury or illness, you or your doctor can fill out a MedWatch voluntary reporting form. You would fill out this form if, for example, a doctor diagnosed you with salmonella poisoning after eating a particular food product.

Prepared food sold at grocery stores is regulated by county health departments.

Consumer Products

Consumer products are regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The CPSC is the group that oversees safety standards for products consumers buy, with the exception of cars and other motor vehicles. You can report unsafe products directly to the CPSC.

Motor Vehicles, Motorcycles, Car Seats, Tires and Auto Parts

The car you drive, the car seat your kids sit in and the buses they take to school are all regulated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The NHTSA also oversees tires, auto parts and motorcycle helmets. Generally, after complaints are made, the NHTSA will open an investigation. The results of that investigation will determine whether a product is recalled or left on the market.

Businesses, Scams, Identity Theft, Spam

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) handles complaints of unfair business practices, scams and other types of fraud and deception. The Commission also oversees the National Do Not Call Registry.

At the state level, you can file a complaint with the North Carolina Attorney General's Office. In the case of a grievance with a particular business, after an initial review of the complaint, the department will follow up with the business for a response.

For other types complaints (labor, air travel, transportation, etc.), visit our Resources section and browse for the appropriate state or federal agency.

Legal Action

There is also always the option for legal action against a company, should it come to that. For assistance locating a lawyer, please visit our North Carolina Law Directory to find a lawyer near you.