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Arkansas State University

Consumer Information: Handling Disputes

The best way to protect yourself is to be educated on your rights and know how to avoid scams.

Handling Disputes

HOW TO COMPLAIN

As soon as you notice there is an issue, contact the business.  Time will play a factor in resolving your complaint.  You may complain in person or through complaint letters.  If you complain in person, keep a level head but be assertive.  If the worker can't resolve your complaint, ask to speak to a supervisor.

When making your complaint, make sure to clearly state your complaint and offer a reasonable solution.  Also include copies of any documents that support your claim (i.e. receipts, warranties, contracts, canceled checks). 

If you are sending your complaint through the mail, never include original documents.  It's a good idea to send the letters through certified mail with return receipt requested so you know when the business received your letter and who signed for it.

WHERE TO FILE COMPLAINTS

If your initial complaint does not resolve the issue, the following organizations may help:

Arkansas Attorney General's Office -- This should be one your first stop.  The Arkansas Attorney General is the state's top consumer advocate.  In many cases, just mentioning the Attorney General's office will resolve disputes.

Better Business Bureau -- Your second stop.  The BBB helps resolve over 70% of complaints filed through their website.

Consumer Sentinel Military -- Special area of the FTC that helps to identify and target consumer protection issues that affect members of the United States Armed Forces and their families.  They use the complaints to detect patterns of wrong-doing, which may lead to investigations and prosecutions.  They do not resolve disputes.

econsumer.gov -- econsumer.gov is a portal for you to report complaints about online and related transactions with foreign companies.

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) -- The FTC keeps track of complaints about companies, business practices, identity theft, and episodes of violence in the media.  They use the complaints to detect patterns of wrong-doing, which may lead to investigations and prosecutions.  They do not resolve disputes.

Local Media -- In extreme cases, you may wish to contact your local media (television, radio, or newspaper) in addition to the above organizations. 

MEDIATION & ARBITRATION

Many consumers and businesses use dispute resolution programs — mediation and arbitration — as an alternative to going to court. Some businesses require consumers to arbitrate their disputes and waive their right to go to court.

Some programs are free. Others charge a flat fee, or a rate based on your ability to pay.

  • Mediation involves a neutral third party — a mediator — who helps you and the other party try to resolve the problem. However, it's up to you and the other party to reach an agreement.

  • Arbitration is less formal than court, though you and the other party may appear at hearings, present evidence, or call and question each other's witnesses. Unlike mediation, an arbitrator or panel makes a decision once you've presented your case. If arbitration is ever brough against you, make sure you respond! The decision may be legally binding. 

DISPUTING CREDIT REPORT ERRORS

Contact BOTH the credit reporting agency and the original business in writing informing them of the mistake.  It's a good idea to send the letters through certified mail with return receipt requested so you know when the businesses receive your letter. Include copies of documents to support your claim (i.e. receipts).  Never use the original documents.

The credit reporting agency must review the claim and forward all information to the original business - usually within 30 days.  Once the investigation is complete, the credit reporting agency must give you the results in writing.

If the original business finds that there is a mistake in your credit report, it must notify all three nationwide credit reporting agencies.

If a mistake is found, you can request the credit reporting agency to notify everyone who has looked at your credit report in the last six months, including potential employers. 

If no mistake is found and you still believe that the credit report is wrong, you can ask the credit reporting agency to include the dispute in your file.