I am frequently asked what one should demand when writing a letter of complaint?  This is the key part of any complaint because if you don’t ask, you don’t get but framing your demand correctly requires a bit of strategy and a hint of cunning.  Allow me to explain.
  • We hear a lot in the media about the existence of a compensation culture in Britain.  There is much talk about demands for huge damages in “no win no fee” litigation but many people are unrealistic about what can properly be claimed as a matter of law.  A common misconception is that you can demand massive American-style damages for the slightest problem.  If you spill a hot cup of coffee on your lap on the other side of the Atlantic it would appear that you will have no difficulty in making a claim for millions of dollars – in this country you will get £50 for pain and suffering and the price of the dry cleaning bill.  If you are thinking about a claim in law, possibly a claim in the small claims court, you should be very realistic about what  what you are likely to get.  In short, the courts tend to compensate you by awarding you enough money to cover the true cost of your suffering and not too much more.
  • If you are simply writing a letter of complaint rather than issuing a law suit, you can be more open-minded and adventurous in your demands.  Reputable companies will often pay out compensation that has no bearing on what the law says.  An airline might hand out free tickets or a food manufacturer might hand out a box of free samples not because the law demands it but because they want to retain you as a customer – such generosity is not driven by charity but by good business sense because smart companies have worked out that winning back a disgruntled customer is a sensible and profitable move.  They want to retain your loyalty.  Accordingly, I tend to conclude my letters of complaint in an open-ended fashion, not least of all because the company concerned might just exceed my expectations.  Words like this usually do the trick:  ”I look to you for a substantial and meaningful gesture of goodwill.  I sincerely hope that you will restore my faith in your company’s usual high standards.”