Filing a Complaint
Types of Complaints We Handle
As with all agencies, our office must set priorities. To determine the extent to which we can address the issues raised in your complaint, we look at four criteria. This checklist also may help you, as a consumer, decide in advance how best to pursue your claim:
- Does your complaint involve a “consumer transaction?” With few exceptions, we can only address complaints involving a purchase, lease or rental entered into for personal, family or household purposes. Transactions for investment or profit and most business to business transactions do not meet fall within the statutory definition of "consumer transaction."
- Does it affect the public good? This office represents the State of Georgia as a whole. We do not represent an individual. By law, we are unable to address an individual situation that does not affect parties beyond the two directly involved. Often we refer people to magistrate court or recommend they talk to an attorney.
- Is there is an ongoing pattern of the alleged improper behavior? We need evidence that the company has continued to engage in unfair or deceptive acts affecting the public at large. Otherwise we might take no action other than monitoring the company's future activities.
- Does another state or federal agency handle this type of complaint? If another state or federal agency has specific jurisdiction to handle your allegations, we must refer your complaint to that agency. Examples of issues that we cannot handle are insurance, banking, professional licensing, the justice system, various environmental issues, health program administration and social services (to name just a few).
Georgia Department of Law's Consumer Protection Unit cannot:
- Give legal advice or act as your attorney.
- Provide information about the reputation of a particular business or individual, although this may be available from the Better Business Bureau.
- Handle a complaint filed by one business against another, except in very limited circumstances.
- Handle a complaint where another state, federal or local government agency has primary authority.
What to Do First
Try to resolve your problem with the company. Often you can resolve a dispute by talking to a person in a position of authority at the business, such as a manager or even the company president. They want your business and know it is usually easier to resolve a dispute and keep a good customer than it is to find a new one.
In the case of disputed charges on your credit card bill, you must act quickly to preserve your right to challenge a charge. This means not only working with the merchant to rectify the situation, but also notifying the credit card company directly, in writing, within 60 days of the initial billing date. More information on how and where to file your dispute should appear on the back of your credit card statement.
Get more information. Before you submit a complaint to Georgia Department of Law's Consumer Protection Unit, check our list of common consumer issues in our A-Z Consumer Topics. Before you take the time to submit a complaint to this office, identify the appropriate place to report your problem and whether Georgia Department of Law's Consumer Protection Unit is the designated office to handle it. This will help you get your complaint to the right place the first time and avoid delays.
If the problem involves an allegation of an unfair or deceptive business practice or otherwise falls within our responsibility—and you are still dissatisfied after making every effort to discuss your disagreement with the merchant—send us your complaint, and we will take appropriate action.
Information You Should Gather for Your Complaint
Your complaint should answer these basic questions:
- What? Describe as completely as you can the problem you are having with a product or service you purchased, leased or rented. Include enough information for us to understand the situation and why you believe it is a problem. For example, were you told something that was untrue? If so, describe what you were told and why you believe it was untrue. Is something defective? If so, explain what was wrong.
- Who? Identify the name and address of the business with which you are having a problem. Include the names of all the people with whom you have dealt in your attempt to resolve this problem.
- How? Explain how you approached or were approached by the business. Did you respond to a print ad, or did you receive a telephone solicitation? Did you visit a store or order on the Internet?
- Where?/When? Identify the location where the problem occurred and the date (or the first point in time, if it took place over several days, weeks or months.) These two pieces of information are crucial in determining whether we have jurisdiction to address the dispute.
- How do you want the dispute to be resolved? Do you want a refund? Cancellation of your contract? Repair or replacement of the product? Since we mediate some of the complaints we receive, we need to know what resolution you desire should we accept the complaint for mediation.
- How can we contact you? It is of vital importance that you give us your mailing address, an e-mail address and a daytime phone number so that we may contact you as needed.
Filing Your Complaint
There are three ways to contact Georgia Department of Law's Consumer Protection Unit and submit information to us:
Call us at 404-651-8600 or 1-800-869-1123 (toll-free in Georgia, outside of the metro Atlanta calling area). Our representatives are available weekdays between 8:30 AM and 5:00 PM, Monday through Thursday, and 8:30 AM and 4:00 PM on Friday. Please note that you will be asked to submit your complaint in writing if the issue appears to be one in which we would consider taking action.
If your problem is in the jurisdiction of another state or federal agency, you will be directed to that agency.
Download, print and complete our Consumer Complaint Form and submit it by mail or fax to 404-651-9018. We do not accept e-mails.
Although you are not required to use this form, your complaint must describe your problem chronologically and must be accompanied by copies of relevant documents, such as invoices, contracts, or previous correspondence with the business.
We will accept faxed complaints if they are not more than 5 pages in length, including the attachments - all of which must be legible. Longer complaints and those involving documents with light or small print must be mailed, instead of faxed, to avoid unnecessary delays due to illegibility.
Complete our online form; you can attach up to 3 attachments to your online submission. The total file size of your attachment(s) may not exceed 10MB.
What Happens When We Receive Your Complaint?
We will review your complaint and take action on behalf of the consuming public as appropriate. We may refer any complaint to another agency or, depending on the nature of your claim, we may communicate with the business involved before responding to you. Georgia Department of Law's Consumer Protection Unit does not act as a judge in the dispute and cannot force the business to reimburse you or comply in any other way. The matter may escalate to an investigation if the company has shown a pattern of similar violations that fall under our jurisdiction.
We do respond to complaints. Most of our communication is by letter or e-mail. We deal with a large number of complaints each day, and thorough reviews take time. Understand that you will not receive an immediate reply from our office and please refrain from calling for status reports unless several months have passed.
Your complaint helps to inform us about problems facing Georgia consumers and about companies which may be operating fraudulently in our state. Even if the matter is resolved, forwarding a statement of your experience, with relevant documentation, might help us establish a pattern of unlawful business practices against this company.