Consumer complaints

Get satisfaction!

If you wish to file a telemarketing or "no-call" complaint, please visit nocall.ky.gov.

If you would like to file a consumer complaint, please use our Online Consumer Complaint Form or our print forms or call the Consumer Protection Division at (502) 696-5389.

Claim against a government agency

If your complaint is with a government agency rather than a business, contact the elected officials with authority over that agency. For example, if it is a federal agency, contact your U.S. Representative or Senator. For a local agency, contact a city or county official.

If you have a consumer complaint

Few things are more frustrating than paying hard-earned money for a product or service only to discover it doesn't measure up to promises or expectations, or that it is just a plain rip-off. When that happens, consumers rightfully expect to have the problem resolved or their money returned.

Even careful buyers get stuck now and then. If it happens to you, you will want to know how to proceed to get the best results.

First contact the business

Take your problem to the salesperson, manager or the company's customer service representative. Most problems are resolved at this level. If you are still not satisfied, contact the owner or the company's headquarters.

If the business will not resolve a problem directly, consumers can file a complaint with the Office of the Attorney General, the Better Business Bureau, or a small claims court. The complaint should explain in detail, with documentation, what the problem is, who it is with, what you have done and what you want. In particular it should:

  • Identify the Business
    Include the name and current address of the business. An agency will not be able to help very much without the firm's current address.
  • Describe the Problem
    Describe as completely as you can the problem with the product or service you have purchased. Were you told something that was untrue? Describe what you were told and how it was untrue. Is it defective? Explain what is wrong. Did the business refuse to honor a warranty? Explain what needs repair and include a photocopy of the warranty.
  • Explain What You Want
    Explain what you want the business to do: how much money should be refunded or exactly how you want a product fixed or a service performed.
  • Include Photocopies
    Always include photocopies of documents relevant to your complaint receipts, warranties, both sides of cancelled checks, contracts, etc. Do not send originals. Only send copies, except upon request of the agency to which you are making your complaint.

Arbitration or 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.

Both the Better Business Bureau and the Office of the Attorney General offer mediation services. In some cases, the bureau provides arbitration services.

Filing a consumer complaint with the Office of the Attorney General

The office has consumer complaint forms to ensure adequate information is contained in your complaint. It is not mandatory that you use these complaint forms, but all complaints must be in writing. If you want a complaint form, email us, download a form online, or call the Consumer Protection Division at (502) 696-5389. You can also simply write to us so long as adequate information is contained in the letter and supporting documents are attached. Write to:

Consumer Protection Division
1024 Capital Center Drive
Frankfort, KY 40601

If you file a complaint with our office, please understand the following:

We may refer you to another agency

Often a state, federal or local agency will have more expertise than our office to handle a particular consumer problem. In such a case, we refer the complaint to the agency best able to help.

We cannot act as your private attorney

State law prohibits our office from giving individual citizens legal advice or opinions or acting as their private attorney. It you feel that you need legal advice, you will have to turn to another source such as a private attorney, legal aid society or other organization.

We can only file suit to protect the public interest

We cannot file a lawsuit whose only purpose is to recover money or property for you. Our office does file suits against companies that violate the laws protecting consumers. However, we file these lawsuits primarily to protect the public interest, not private interests. Whether a lawsuit is in the public interest depends on several factors:

  • Severity of the case in terms of economic loss or the number and gravity of law violations
  • Possibility of halting a fraudulent scheme quickly
  • Number of consumers involved
  • Extent to which consumers will benefit from public enforcement
  • Costs of enforcement as compared to the benefits to the public
  • Likelihood of collecting penalties and restitution from the business

Lawsuits may not recover money for consumers

Even if we sue a business against which you have made a complaint, we may not be able to recover any money for you.

For example, the company's practices may have affected so many people that it is impossible to prove each person's damages. A company facing a lawsuit may go out of business and the owners may not be found, or they may not be held legally responsible. Finally, a company may have used or hidden its money and other assets, leaving nothing with which to repay consumers.

In these, and other less frequent examples, we may file suit to stop illegal practices even though we know we will be unable to recover consumers' money.

How our mediation process works

If we decide your complaint is appropriate for mediation, we will ask the business to respond to your allegations. We generally give the business 30 days to respond. If they do not respond or refuse to cooperate, there is generally nothing the Office can do except track this information for reporting and monitoring purposes.

If at any time we need more information, we will contact you. If you need to provide us additional information, please do so in writing. We do not have the staff to handle numerous telephone inquiries.

If your complaint is not appropriate for mediation, or if we refer your complaint to another agency, we will advise you of the decision. In any event, we will keep your complaint on file so that we can monitor illegal practices in the marketplace.

Special problems

Credit card purchases

In a credit card purchase dispute, the card issuer may credit your account and charge the item back to the business - if you follow certain steps.

  1. Write to your credit card issuer at the address for errors or inquiries found on your billing statement no later than 60 days after the billing statement was sent.
  2. Include vital information such as your name and account number, the date and amount of the disputed transaction and the business name and address.
  3. Describe the dispute. Explain in detail actions you have taken in good faith to resolve the complaint, and why you feel the business should not be paid.
  4. Send photocopies of any papers or other documents you believe relate to the transaction. Do not send originals!

Company moved or is out of business

Perhaps the most frustrating consumer complaint is one against a company that is out of business or that has moved without leaving a forwarding address. It is almost always impossible to resolve. Even agencies that assist consumers may not have the resources to find these companies.

In some rare instances, consumers may recover some of their money if the company has filed bankruptcy. To have any chance, you must file a "proof of claim. " Obtain a claim form from the clerk of the Federal District Court in which the business has filed for bankruptcy, fill it out, then return it to the clerk. Bankruptcy cases can be very complex, so you may want to hire an attorney to help you - especially if your claim is large.

Sources of assistance

Below is a description of the types of places you might find additional assistance. For more detailed information on who and how to contact other sources of assistance, check out our consumer resources page.

If you need an attorney

If you cannot resolve your complaint, or it involves a large amount of money, you may want to hire a lawyer.

  • Private Attorneys
    The Kentucky Bar Association and some 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." These organizations generally can assist only those meeting strict financial asset and income guidelines. By statute, they are also prohibited from handling certain types of cases.

Other sources of help

There are a variety of public and private sources that may be able to help with your complaint. Here is a description of the types of help that may be available.

  • Better Business Bureau
    Most cities have a Better Business Bureau offering complaint mediation services. In some cases, the BBB also provides arbitration services. Some businesses pledge to arbitrate all consumer complaints filed with the BBB that are not resolved by mediation.
  • 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.
  • Private Mediation Services
    Some cities have private mediation or alternative dispute resolution centers. They are usually non-profit and charge either no fee or a small fee.
  • Consumer Reporters
    Some television stations, 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 Chicago.
  • 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.