Sources of Assistance
Most consumer complaints are most quickly and effectively resolved through a direct approach to the business itself. When that fails, you can file a complaint with this agency, the FTC and the BBB. But other sources of assistance are available.
consumer complaints:The Consumer Complaint Process What to Do if You Have a Complaint On-Line Complaint Form Printable (PDF) complaint form
attorney general column:Filing in Small Claims Court
others accepting complaints:Federal Trade Commission Better Business Bureau (BBB)
Complaint against a regulated business or licensed professional:Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR)
If your complaint falls within one of the consumer topics listed at the left of this page, you will find links to other agencies and sources of information that may help you. You could also try some of the strategies listed below.
Many businesses and professions in Texas are regulated by specialized state agencies. Generally, any profession for which a license is required has a corresponding agency with authority to review complaints and revoke a person's license.
Regulatory agencies generally will also disclose information about substantiated complaints and disciplinary actions against licensed professionals.
Arbitration or Mediation
The Better Business Bureau offers mediation services. In some cases, the bureau provides arbitration services.Some businesses pledge to arbitrate all consumer complaints filed with the BBB that are not resolved by mediation.
In arbitration, a neutral party hears both sides of a complaint and makes a decision that will be binding on the parties, depending on the terms of the arbitration agreement. Usually, both sides formally agree to submit the dispute to an arbitrator.
In mediation, a neutral party tries to get both sides to agree on a resolution of the complaint. Mediation can begin without any formal agreement between the parties.
Many cities have private mediation or alternative dispute resolution centers, They are usually non-profit and charge either no fee or a small fee.
Consulting an attorney
If you cannot resolve your complaint, or it involves a large amount of money, you may want to hire a lawyer. There are several options.
- Private Attorneys. The State Bar Association and many county bar associations operate lawyer referral programs. Often there is only a small fee for the initial consultation.
- Legal Aid or Legal Services. If you can't afford a lawyer, you may be eligible for federally-funded legal assistance. Look in the phone book under "Legal Aid" or "Legal Services."
- Law School Legal Clinics. Many law schools operate legal clinics at which law students assist people under the supervision of a law professor or other lawyer. Contact the law school nearest you for more information.
The University of Houston Center for Consumer Law
Texas Consumer Complaint Center
SMU Dedman School of Law
Clinic Main Number
Other Sources of Help
There are even more public and private sources that may be able to help with your complaint:
- Local Consumer Offices. Many cities and counties have consumer affairs offices or have programs to assist consumers. Check the blue pages of your phone book.
- Office of Consumer Credit Commissioner (OCCC) offers a toll-free helpline for consumers who have complaints and questions about misrepresentation, fraud, and deceptive practices on the part of pawnshops, regulated lenders, or creditors. The helpline is open Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., at (800) 538-1579.
- Justice of the Peace or Small Claims Court. All counties have special courts to handle small claims. The filing fees are usually much less than those charged in the county or district courts and the proceedings are less formal, with citizens often representing themselves. In these courts you can present your side to the judge. Present your case with the same information you would include in a complaint, bringing any documents or witnesses that are relevant.
- Consumer Reporters. Some television and radio stations.and newspapers have consumer reporters that help people with complaints.
- Trade Associations. Many industries have trade associations that perform a variety of functions, often including resolution of complaints against their members.
- Federal Trade Commission. The FTC enforces fair trade laws and may help consumers resolve complaints. The commission has a regional office in Dallas.
- Other State Attorneys General. If your complaint is against a company in another state, you may be able to get help from that state's attorney general.
- Elected Representatives. Members of Congress, state legislators, city council members, county commissioners and other elected officials may help constituents with consumer complaints, These are also the people to contact if you believe there should be a law to protect consumers from a particular problem.
- Bexar County Dispute Resolution Center - offers mediation, free of charge, in civil conflict involving people who live in Bexar County and organizations and businesses that function in Bexar County. Issues that can be mediated include consumer-merchant.
If your complaint is about a government agency rather than a business, check to see if the agency has an ombudsman program. Texas state agencies are required to post a Compact with Texans on their websites, and these documents must include information about how to file a complaint with that agency.If you are unable to get satisfaction in a complaint against a government agency, contact the elected officials with authority over that agency. If it is a federal agency, contact your U.S. Representative or Senator. For a state agency, contact your state representative and senator. For a local agency, contact the city or county officials.