Who Ya Gonna Call? Ten Ways to Fight Back

© 2002 Door & Access Systems
Publish Date: Summer 2002
Author: Tom Wadsworth
Page 32

Who Ya Gonna Call?

Ten Ways to Fight Back

If you believe that a competitor is engaging in illegal or unethical activity, you might think that you have no way to fight back. However, a variety of public and private sources may be able to help you with your complaint.

Here’s our top ten list of options.

  1. Better Business Bureau. Most cities in the U.S. and Canada have a Better Business Bureau that receives complaints and files reports on companies. Most bureaus cover several counties, so even if you’re in a smaller city, you may have an active bureau in your area. (In Canada, contact the Bureau of Competition Policy.)
  2. Local Consumer Offices. Many cities and counties have consumer affairs offices or have programs to assist consumers. Check your phone book or search online for such an office.
  3. Consumer Reporters. Some television and radio stations and newspapers have consumer reporters that help people with complaints.
  4. The News Media. If your local media sees a good story in your complaint, news reporters can be useful in exposing questionable behavior. Negative media attention can be a bad business’s worst enemy.
  5. Business Associations. Many industries have trade associations that develop a strongly worded “Code of Ethics” or a “Code of Business Practices” that may help to clean up the industry. Also consider subcontractor associations, organized chapters for remodelers or home builders, or your local Chamber of Commerce.
  6. The Advertising Medium. If you believe a competitor is running a deceptive ad, contact the radio station, television station, or publication where the ad ran. Tell them about the ad and why you think it is deceptive.
  7. Your Attorney. Your own attorney can help you sort through your options and help determine your best course of action. The Lanham Act gives companies the right to sue their competitors for making deceptive claims in ads. Your attorney can help you argue your case effectively, especially in Small Claims Court.
  8. Small Claims Court. Most counties have special courts to handle small claims. The filing fees are usually much less, and citizens often represent themselves. Just be sure you bring good documentation or witnesses that are relevant.
  9. The Attorney General’s Office in your state. Find them in the phone book or online at www.naag.org. Typically, they will file suit against companies that violate the laws protecting consumers, but they may get involved only if the complaint is severe, widespread, and verifiable.
  10. Federal Trade Commission. If the problem is regional or national in scope, the FTC enforces fair trade laws and may help consumers resolve complaints.

Five Online Resources

Better Business Bureau. www.bbb.org

Find your local bureau, file a complaint online, and look for a report about a company in your area. The site also includes guidance for businesses and consumers.

National Association of Attorneys General. www.naag.org

Find the Web site and phone numbers for your state’s Attorney General, and learn what your Attorney General can do for you.

FirstGov for Consumers. www.consumer.gov

This site is a major resource of useful links and consumer information from the federal government.

Federal Trade Commission. www.ftc.gov

The site includes helpful information on appropriate and misleading advertising and allows you to file a complaint online.

Federal Consumer Information Center. www.pueblo.gsa.gov

Designed for the consumer, this handy site contains a host of information about federal agencies, programs, and services.