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There are few things more annoying as a shopper than getting your purchases home from the stores and finding out they’re broken. Or maybe you ordered a shirt online and when it arrives, you find that some of the stitching’s coming undone already. When this happens, you’ll probably take it back to the shop or send it back in the post for a refund.

Generally, most shops will be fair about this and if they think there’s a genuine problem with what you’ve ordered, they’ll give you a refund. But this isn’t always the case and you can sometimes be met with poor service, with the shop refusing to recognise there’s anything wrong and sending you away without your money.

In the past, there wasn’t much you could do, but now a new free service aims to help shoppers who’ve been treated unfairly.

What is the Consumer Ombudsman?

The Consumer Ombudsman launched recently, with the aim of giving customers the power to fight the big shops when they think they’ve been wronged. It will take care of all complaints related to the retail sector, as well as anything else that’s not covered by a current ombudsman service. That means if you’ve got a complaint about a builder who has done a shoddy job or you’ve bought a second hand car that isn’t what it seems, you can go to them.

When you get in touch with them to say that something’s wrong, they’re not just going to take your side. They’ll look carefully at the facts before they make a full decision, and then decide if you’re owed compensation. The Consumer Ombudsman’s decision is legally binding so if it says a shop needs to pay up, they have to.

However, it can only make decisions about companies that have signed up to be regulated by the service, and there’s no word yet who these retailers are.

If I have a complaint

Whenever you find something wrong with goods you’ve bought or a service you’ve paid for, it’s best to always try going back to the company you bought it from first of all. As we’ve mentioned, most companies are generally helpful when you have complaints and if you can get your problem sorted without any help from a third-party, it will be faster and easier for you both.

If you don’t get it sorted this way, you can get in touch with the Consumer Ombudsman. You’ll have to send them written evidence of your complaint – make sure to go into as much detail as possible to give yourself a better chance. They may ask you to send them further evidence to support your case, like photos of the damaged goods, for example.

Assuming the company is willing to work out the problem with the Consumer Ombudsman, they’ll come to a resolution within 10 days. If the company refuses to cooperate, you might have to take your case to a small claims court.

Other protection

Don’t just rely on the Consumer Ombudsman to sort out your gripes – you should give yourself the best protection possible when you’re shopping. Remember, if you pay for anything over £100 using your credit card, you’ll be covered by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. This means that if the goods you buy are faulty or never turn up, you could claim your money back from your credit card provider.

It’s important that you don’t let retailers get away with mistreating you. If you think you’ve genuinely been sold goods or services that have something wrong with them, you’ve got a right to complain, so don’t think that you’re being pushy or difficult.

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