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Article

How to write a Letter of Complaint? (FCE, CAE, CPE)

Article navigation:
Letter of Complaint: Definition
Letter of Complaint: Structure/Format
Letter of Complaint: Writing Guide
Letter of Complaint: Example Letters
Letter of Complaint: Writing Topics
Letter of Complaint: Tips
Letter of Complaint: Useful Phrases & Language

Letter of Complaint: Definition

A complaint letter is a letter written to concerned authorities if we are not satisfied with the service provided by them. These letters are usually formal in nature. Sometimes when we order a product and it is received defective then we write the letter to the related person or company, complaining about the product

Things to know writing a letter of complaint:

 

Letter of Complaint: Structure/Format

Please have a look at this letter of complaint layout template example:

1. Salutation
Dear Sir or Madam / Dear Manager
2. The Introductory Paragraph
Identify what the issue is.
3. The next paragraphs (the body)
Complaint 1 and justification
Complaint 2 and justification
Complaint 3 and justification
4. Closing paragraph
Suggested action to be taken
– sign off with: Yours faithfully
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Letter of Complaint: Writing Guide

1. Salutation

Dear Sir/ Madam / Manager / To whom it may concern,

If you do not know the name of the person you are writing to, use this. It is always advisable to try to find out a name.

Dear Mr Jenkins

If you know the name, use the title (Mr, Mrs, Miss or Ms, Dr, etc.) and the surname only. If you are writing to a woman and do not know if she uses Mrs or Miss, you can use Ms, which is for married and single women.

2. The Introductory Paragraph

You should identify what the issue is and any relevant information that you believe is important. Include more details if it’s applicable to the situation.

3. The next paragraphs (the body)

You can extend your thoughts and feelings further. Yet, be sure to stick with the facts and avoid putting emotions into your letter.

  • Include the time of the issue, location, people involved and what the problem was.
  • Any complaint should be supported with a justification:

4. Closing paragraph

Write how you want this problem to be solved.  You can also throw in some compliments about something you liked about their company’s product or service.


 TIP: Remember about “linking” in the letter!

Between paragraphs:

Firstly, I had booked table […]
Then, the waiter brought us the wrong starters […]

To make the matter worse, the cake was stale […]

Within a paragraph:

My wife and I will not […]; however, […]
In spite of the fact that […], the waiter brought the wrong starters.

Letter of Complaint: Example Letters

Letter of Complaint subject:

You and a friend, Sam, bought some CDs to help you improve your English. You were not happy with the CDs and have decided to write to the publisher, CD World. Read the email from Sam and the advertisement for the CDs below, on which you have made some notes. Then, using the information appropriately, write a letter to CD World explaining why you bought the CDs, why you are dissatisfied and saying what you would like the company to do.

Student’s Letter of Complaint Answer:

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing to express my disappointment with the course of English language CDs which I purchased from your company a few days ago. I have a good theoretical knowledge of English grammar and I was hoping that your course would help me to improve my conversational fluency and my knowledge of business English, but I feel your product is unsatisfactory and your advertisement is misleading in several respects.

To begin with, your advertisement states that the course provides English conversation for pleasure and business. This naturally leads one to expect that there are commercial English conversations on the CDs, and yet no such conversations are included. In addition, the student is expected to listen and repeat the conversations, but there is not enough time to do this without constantly pressing the “pause” button. Finally, your advertisement gives the impression that the price for the whole course is 20 euros, whereas in fact the CDs cost 20 euros each. The total price is thus 120 euros. I feel this is, to say the least, somewhat misleading.

For these reasons, I am most dissatisfied with your product. I am returning the CDs and expect a full refund. I hope to hear from you soon.

Yours faithfully
(your name)

Letter of Complaint subject:

You recently took a self-catering holiday in a luxury apartment, but the standard of the accommodation was very poor. The holiday company that you booked with have offered you some vouchers as compensation, but you have decided you would prefer a cash refund instead. Write a letter to the company outlining the problems you experienced with the accommodation and the action you want them to take.

Student’s Formal Letter Answer:

Dear Sir or Madam

I am writing to complain about the bad standard of accommodation during my last holiday. I booked this self-catering holiday last year in your travel agency. When I returned from my two-week travel last week, I immediately visited the agency to complain about my bad experiences.

Had I known that the accomodation would be so poor, I would have booked from the beginning a full-service holiday. What I expected was a luxury apartment with a small oven. Not only was the room dirty and full of bugs, but the shower was broken and unusable. To make matters even worse, there was no oven as I ordered it. Never before have I seen such a bad service at a self-catering holiday. You can imagine my anger when I had to eat out, smelling like a … Not surprisingly, I booked another room, though without oven but clean and with a working shower. Therefore this room cost a lot more than the other one and I had to go out eating.

My purpose in visiting the agency was to ask for compensation. The young lady who served me offered some vouchers as compensation. She advised me to take my time with the answer. I have decided to ask your company for a cash refund. Would a refund about 500 euros be too much to expect? I would like to ask you to have a look on my enclosed accounts. Seeing how much money I had to invest additionally will help you to decide what to do about the whole matter.

At the very least, I would like you to inform me of the action you will take with regard to my extra invested money. Unless adequate action is taken, I shall have no other option but to publish this letter in the local newspaper.

Yours faithfully,
Ilona

Letter of Complaint subject:

You recently had a short holiday organized by TravelWise. The manager of the company sent you a letter asking to state the problems which had occurred during your vacation. Write a letter to the manager, explaining what the problems were and telling them what you want them to do.

Write your letter. Don’t include any postal addresses.

Student’s Formal Letter Answer:

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing with reference to your letter, where you politely requested a feedback of my recent vacation organized by TravelWise. As you already know I was displeased with numerous points.

Firstly, the hotel I stayed was located in a run-down and dangerous neighbourhood, on few occasions I was approached by a drug dealer and a beggar. When it comes to the room it was completely different from what had been presented in your brochure. Dirt, darkness and rats were my company throughout the stay, I actually changed rooms few times, however it seemed all the rooms were in similar condition.

One of the reasons I had chosen your company was the free of charge spa and trips organized by your staff. It turned out that I had to pay extra for all of these services. And although it might be true that the water sports provided were amazing it does not change the fact my holiday was ruined by the above problems.

I must ask you to refund all the costs of my vacation including extra charge for spa and trips please.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Yours faithfully,
Sam Smith

Letter of Complaint: Writing Topics

You recently stayed at one of a chain of large hotels and encountered a number of problems during your stay. Write a letter to the company’s head office detailing the problems you had, describing what happened when you complained to the hotel staff and suggesting ways the company could improve its service.

(CAE 220-260 words – CPE 280-320 words)

You and a friend, Sam, bought some CDs to help you improve your English. You were not happy with the CDs and have decided to write to the publisher, CD World. Read the email from Sam and the advertisement for the CDs below, on which you have made some notes. Then, using the information appropriately, write a letter to CD World explaining why you bought the CDs, why you are dissatisfied and saying what you would like the company to do.

(CAE 220-260 words – CPE 280-320 words)

You recently travelled to work by train, and were appalled because the train was dirty and the canteen facilities were poor. Due to work on the tracks, your train failed to arrive at its destination on time, which made you late for work. You have decided to write a letter of complaint to the railway company, expressing your views and stating what you expect them to do about the problem.

(CAE 220-260 words – CPE 280-320 words)

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More than Practice Tests

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Sample papers, online practice tests & tips.

Letter of Complaint: Tips

  1. Focus on the most important facts. Don’t give unnecessary background information.
  2. Make sure you include:
    • the reason for writing (e.g. I am writing to …)
    • what went wrong
    • what you would like to happen now.
  3. Complaint letters are usually written in a formal style.
  4. Use passives to be less direct and more formal, e.g. I was served quickly.
  5. Use Yours faithfully to sign off if you don’t know the name of the person you’re writing to.

Also:

  • Always proofread your letter after writing it, check for sentence structure, grammar, spelling mistakes…
  • Proofread your letter again (and again) after you have revised it.
  • Be respectful when you write, even if you are writing a letter of complaint.

Letter of Complaint: Useful Phrases & Language

Opening

Dear Sir or Madam, / To whom it may concern,
I am writing to express my disappointment with/dissatisfaction with the service I received in…
I would like to lodge a formal complaint against your company for the reasons outlined below:
I feel compelled to write to you in order to describe the

Listing Problems

First of all,
Not only was there a hair in my wife’s soup, but the main course also arrived cold.
On top of that…
As if that was not enough…
To top it all off…
My first complaint is
 The first problem is
 The first thing I would like to draw your attention to is
 My first concern is
The straw that broke the camel’s back was…

Complaining Expressions

The standard of the… was not up to scratch.
The… was not up to the expected standard.
The… left a lot to be desired.
The… failed to live up to our expectations.
We were left bitterly disappointed by…
The quality of the customer service we received was woefully inadequate.
The… was an absolute disgrace. (v.strong)
Overall, our visit to your (restaurant) was an unmitigated disaster from start to finish.

Requesting Action

It seems only fair that you should… (offer a full refund)
I would appreciate it if you…
I would be grateful if you…
I suggest that you replace the item
I therefore suggest that I be given a full refund
I would be grateful if my money was refunded
I would be grateful if you could give me a full refund
Should these demands not be met, you will be hearing from my lawyers.
I expect to receive compensation to the tune of (€2000) for the…

Making Recommendations

I strongly recommend that your organisation…
It would be advisable to…
I suggest re-evaluating your procedures regarding…

Sign off

I look forward to receiving your reply.
I look forward to hearing from you
I look forward to receiving a full refund
I look forward to receiving a replacement
I look forward to receiving your explanation
I expect to receive a prompt reply to this letter.
Yours faithfully,

engxam logo english exams

CAE, FCE, CPE

More than Practice Tests

Get your writing checked, track your progress online.
Sample papers, online practice tests & tips.
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