State Bureau of Consumer Protection
Note: Content provided by the PA Attorney General's Office
Filing a complaint with the Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection
Please review the following tips and instructions regarding consumer complaints, to assist our office in addressing your problem.
Identifying the Problem
The first step in addressing any complaint is to identify the nature of the problem. Gather and review your records, including sales receipts, warranties, contracts, repair orders, canceled checks and other documents which will back up your complaint and help the company solve your problem.
After gathering specific information about the problem, contact the person who sold you the item or performed the service. Calmly and accurately explain the problem and what action you request. If that person is not helpful, ask for the supervisor or manager and restate your case. A large percentage of consumer problems are resolved at this level.
If the product is a national brand, call or write a letter to the person responsible for consumer complaints at the company's headquarters, i.e., the company's public relations representative or president. Many companies have toll-free telephone numbers, often printed on the product.
Keep records of your efforts and include notes with whom you spoke and what was done about the problem. Save copies of any letters you send to the company as well as letters sent to you.
Complaint letters should include your name, address, home and work telephone numbers, and account number, if appropriate. Make your letter brief and to the point. Specify all the important facts about your purchase, including the date and place you made the purchase and any information you can give about the product, such as the serial or model number. If you are writing to complain about a service you received, describe the service and who performed it.
Disputes Involving Credit Card Charges
If your claim involves a dispute of charges placed on your credit card or billing statement, or if a merchant has promised to reverse or credit your charge card but has failed to do so, you must act quickly to preserve your right to challenge a charge.
Under the Federal Fair Credit Billing Act, your credit card company must receive a written dispute notice from you with 60 days after the first bill containing the disputed charge was mailed to you. We cannot dispute this charge for you.
Your monthly credit card statement will include specific information regarding the procedure for filing your dispute. You must file your dispute with your credit card company; a complaint to the merchant or company that made the charge is not sufficient. Even if you file a credit card dispute, you can still file a claim with our office.
Contacting the Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection
If you have exhausted your efforts to resolve a problem without success, we encourage you to file a formal complaint with the Attorney General Office as soon as possible.
Please note that we cannot give specific legal advice to individuals. If you have questions concerning the specific application or interpretation of the law, you should consult a private attorney. If you do not have an attorney you can call your county lawyer referral service or your county bar association. The Pennsylvania Bar Association, toll free 1-800-932-0311, or website, offers county lawyer referral offices. Other agencies may be accessed through the blue pages of your telephone directory.
The Complaint Process
When we receive your complaint form, it will be reviewed by our staff. The Bureau of Consumer Protection receives more than 50,000 complaints per year, so it may take some time before we can thoroughly review your complaint. We ask for, and appreciate, your patience.
Depending on the nature of the complaint, one of the following courses of action may be taken:
- It may be referred to a local consumer group or to another state or federal agency. When your complaint is referred, you will be notified by mail of the name and address of the referral agency or group, so that you may contact them for information concerning your complaint.
- If your complaint is appropriate for this office, we will attempt to mediate your dispute through the services of our Consumer Mediation Unit, and you will be sent a letter with your complaint file number. Please keep your file number for future reference when contacting this office.
- If your complaint is suitable for mediation, an agent will contact both you and the business with whom you are having a dispute and attempt to mediate and resolve your problem. Please note that most contact is by letter.
- If mediation efforts are not successful, you may be advised to seek relief either through a private attorney or through small claims court. The Mediation Unit cannot act as your private legal counsel or offer legal advice.
- In certain instances, when there is a compelling public interest or where there are a number of complaints against the same business, the Bureau of Consumer Protection may file a lawsuit in state or federal court seeking relief on behalf of consumers.
When contacting this office, always do so in writing so your file may be kept up to date. It is not necessary to call and check the status of your complaint; you will be notified by mail when we receive information regarding your case. Please refrain from calling for "status reports," though we encourage consumers to contact us as soon as possible should they have additional information regarding their complaint.
There are two options for submitting a consumer complaint - either an online electronic complaint form including uploading capability of complaint related documents or a printable PDF form, which can be downloaded, completed and mailed to our office along with any attachments or supporting information.
All documents related to consumer complaints should be sent to the following address:
Office of Attorney General
Bureau of Consumer Protection
15th Floor, Strawberry Square
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Our office looks at establishing patterns of business practices. Even if you have resolved your complaint you can forward a statement regarding your experience with the attached documents for our office to use for future reference.
We hope we can be of assistance to you.