Trader is not responding
If you have a complaint about your goods or service but are finding it hard to get in touch with the trader, they may be avoiding your complaint. The trader may have been taken over, moved premises or gone out of business. If you bought your goods over the internet or by phone what you can do is different to actions you can take if you know the address of the company.
This page will give you some tips on how to locate your trader and what your options for action may be when you had direct contact with the trader.
If you are not getting any response from the trader and you can’t find them, you may be able to get what you want through other means.
If you used a debit or credit card, you may be able to get a refund. If you paid for the service with a credit card, you can contact the card issuer (the bank or credit card company) and say you want to make a ‘section 75 claim’. If you used a debit card, say you want to make a ‘chargeback’ claim. If you don’t get anywhere, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
If your complaint or problem is covered by a manufacturer’s guarantee or an insurance backed guarantee, you may be able to claim under the guarantee.
Have you tried to find the trader?
If you haven’t yet tried to locate the trader, you may find it helpful to try the following.
Send a recorded delivery letter to the trader
Try sending a letter to the trader by recorded delivery, if you haven’t already done so. To find out if the letter was received by the trader at their address, contact the local post office customer services office, with the reference number on your recorded delivery receipt. The address of the local customer services office is available from the post office or by telephoning 0845 774 0740.
If the firm is a private limited company (with Ltd. after their name), a copy of the letter could also be sent to their main registered office address if this is different to the address where they trade. To find out their official address contact Companies House or Company Check. Although Company Check is a commercial site, it does offer free, unlimited searches for information about private limited companies. The information that is available from Company Check is more comprehensive than that available from Companies House.
Ask around for the last known address of the trader
Ask around to see if anyone has heard anything about the trader's whereabouts. You could try:
- other local traders or neighbours
- the landlord or estate agent of the premises of the trader’s registered address
- a trade association, if the trader was a member.
Visit the trader’s address
If it is safe and practical for you to do so, it may be worth visiting the trading premises or registered address of the trader. This may give you an idea of what has happened. Look for signs that the company is still trading there or not. For example, do the premises look clean and looked after or run down and neglected.
If the trader didn’t give you their contact details
If there is no written agreement most service providers must give you certain information before you make an agreement with them or before they begin to provide you with a service. There is a requirement for them to do this under the Provision of Services Regulations 2009.
This doesn’t apply if you simply bought goods from a trader.
What information has to be provided
The information you should be given includes:
- contact details for making a complaint
- details about any trade association or professional body they belong to
- any code of practice or dispute resolution scheme they belong to.
Double check any paperwork you have from the trader to see if you were given this information. If you were you can now contact their trade association or professional organisation. If you were not given the information you can report them to Trading standards for this breach under the Provision of Services Regulations 2009.
If the trader is trading but simply ignoring you
If the trader is simply ignoring you and hoping you’ll eventually drop your complaint you could escalate it. Although you might want to try to use alternative dispute resolution, like mediation, you can't do this with a trader who refuses to talk to you.
You might have to take legal action in court. If the value of your claim is under £5,000 you should be able to use a procedure called the simple procedure. You don’t need a solicitor’s help to do this.
If the trader has been taken over by another trader
You may find out that the trader's business has been taken over by another trader. If this happens what you can do depends on whether the trader is a sole trader or partnership or whether they are a limited company (with ltd. or plc after their name) and why it has been taken over.
Your trader is a sole trader or partnership
If the trader is a sole trader or in a partnership you should try and follow up the complaint with the original person you dealt with as they will still be responsible for your complaint. This is because your contract is with that individual.
Your trader is a limited company
If the company has new owners, the reason for the takeover may determine what you can do next. If the company went out of business then you may be able to get a solution to the problem from the administrator who dealt with the firm going bust.
If the firm has simply been taken over, good practice is that the new owners should take over any problems that customers of the company have. However, the new owners don’t have to do this.
If you are unhappy with the way new owners have handled your problem you can discuss the problem with your local trading standards department.