Filing a Complaint
The Types of Complaints We Handle
As with all agencies, our office must set priorities. In carrying out our statutory responsibilities, there are four criteria the Georgia Department of Law's Consumer Protection Unit must consider to determine the extent to which we can address the issues raised in your complaint. This checklist may also help you, as a consumer, decide in advance how best to pursue your claim:
Does the situation meet the definition of a “consumer transaction”? With few exceptions, we are restricted to handling complaints arising out of transactions that involve a purchase, lease or rental entered into for personal, family or household purposes. Excluded from this definition are most transactions between two businesses, or for investment or profit.
Does it affect the public good? This office represents the State of Georgia rather than any individual. By law, we are unable to address an individual situation that does not affect parties beyond the two directly involved. Often we must refer citizens to magistrate court or recommend seeking counsel from a private attorney in matters this office will not entertain.
Is there is an ongoing pattern of the alleged improper behavior? If our records do not contain sufficient evidence that the company has engaged repeatedly in unfair or deceptive acts affecting the public at large, we will take no action other than monitoring their future activities.
Does another state or federal agency have primary or specific jurisdiction to handle this type of complaint? If so, by law we must refer your complaint to that department for action as appropriate. Examples of concerns that are not under Georgia Department of Law's Consumer Protection Unit purview are insurance, banking, professional licensing, landlord/tenant, 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 private 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.
Try to Resolve Your Problem with the Company First
Often a dispute can be resolved 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.
Help with Your ProblemTo help you get your complaint to the right place the first time and save you valuable time, we offer suggestions on how to go about resolving many common consumer issues in the section of our web site titled A-Z Consumer Topics. Before you take the time to submit a complaint to this office, please check first to see whether your particular concern is listed there. If it is, you can learn the appropriate place to report your problem and whether Georgia Department of Law's Consumer Protection Unit is the designated office to handle it. In that event, or if you do not find the issue listed but it meets the above qualifying criteria, please return to this pagefor further instructions.
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—you may send us your complaint, and we will take appropriate action.
Information You Should Gather for Your Complaint
The facts you supply with 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. The description should 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 business you are having problems with by name and current address. Identify also all the individuals with whom you have dealt in your attempt to resolve this problem.
How? Identify the method of approach to or from the business. For example, 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.
What resolution are you seeking? Explain how you believe the dispute should be resolved, such as by issuance of a refund, cancellation of the contract, or repair of the item. 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 appropriate.
Filing Your Complaint
There are three ways to contact Georgia Department of Law's Consumer Protection Unit and provide information to us:
- You can call us at 404-651-8600 or 1-800-869-1123 (toll-free in Georgia, outside of the metro Atlanta calling area) to speak with a trained customer service representative. Representatives are available between 8:30 and 5:30 weekdays. First you will be asked for the name of the business about which you are complaining and a short description of your problem (such as billing dispute, debt collection, auto repair problem, or failure to refund). You will then be transferred to a customer service agent who is trained in the area of your problem. 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.
- You can contact us in writing and submit your complaint by mail or fax. We do not accept e-mails.
Posted on this web site is a Consumer Complaint Form that can be downloaded, printed and completed. Although you are not required to use our form, your complaint must set forth the 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 five pages in length, including the attachments, which must be legible. We request that longer complaints and those involving documents with light or small print be mailed instead of faxed, to avoid unnecessary delays due to illegibility. Our fax number is 404-651-9018.
Complaints submitted to us by mail or fax will receive a response.
- You can submit information through an online form. Use this form to alert Georgia Department of Law's Consumer Protection Unit about a practice that you feel is illegal, deceptive or unfair.
Consumers who submit complaints through the online form will not receive a response from our office unless we elect to pursue this issue on behalf of the larger consuming public or need to contact you for more details or copies of pertinent documents.
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 written complaints received by fax or mail. Most of our communication to you is by letter or e-mail. However, since we receive a large volume every day and a thorough review of your complaint could take some time, please understand that you may not receive an immediate reply from our office. We ask for and appreciate your patience during this time. To help us help you, please refrain from calling for status reports unless several months have passed.
As mentioned above, please bear in mind that complaints submitted through the online form will not receive an individualized response unless we need more information or an investigation is opened.
You can be assured that your concerns are always very important to us. Whether or not we are able to take action against the company, your complaint is valuable in informing us about problems facing Georgia consumers and about companies who may be operating fraudulently in our state. Even if you have resolved the matter, informing us of this fact and forwarding a statement of your experience, with relevant documentation, might help us establish a pattern of unlawful business practices against this company in the future.