Government Agencies That Can Help You With Consumer ComplaintsWhen you have a problem with a product or service you’re getting, it’s a good idea to contact the company that provides it to try and sort out your issue. However, sometimes that doesn’t work, and the company just strings you along without ever really fixing anything, or flat-out ignores you. In those cases, it might be time to step up your efforts and make a complaint to a government agency. Many industries are regulated by the government, and the threat of government investigations, audits or fines can pressure companies into complying with the law. Some government agencies can even try to take direct action on your behalf, seeking out compensation for individual cases or as part of a larger settlement. Read on to learn about some of the government agencies that can help you with your consumer complaints, including what industries they govern, how they can help you and how to contact them.

Please note that these agencies aren’t able to solve all individual consumer complaints, and in some cases, the agencies can only direct you to resources you can take advantage of to help your own situation. However, all complaints contribute to the data these agencies have on issues consumers are facing, so your complaint can still contribute to larger investigations that deter companies from exploiting customers.

The Federal Trade Commission

The Federal Trade Commission, or FTC, was established in 1914 to promote consumer protection and competition among businesses. In addition to helping people with identity theft cases, the FTC handles consumer complaints related to false advertising, deceptive business practices and debt collection issues. If you feel like you’ve been ripped off by a company, either because you bought its product and it didn’t work properly, or because the company sneakily billed you for more than you thought it would, the FTC can help you. It can also assist you if you’ve been scammed as part of a business opportunity, such as a work from home scam or a pyramid scheme. Sometimes, in big cases where a lot of people have been affected, the FTC will even sue the offending company and work out a monetary settlement that then gets distributed to victims in the form of refunds, as it recently did with Western Union. Lastly, if you have a problem related to companies violating the Do Not Call registry, that list is maintained by the FTC, but you may have more luck working with the next agency on our list.

You can file a complaint with the FTC using its complaint assistant, or by calling 1-877-382-4357.

The Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission, or FCC, covers interstate and international communications, which means radio, Internet, phone, fax and cable issues go through it. If, for example, your phone company is billing you for charges you didn’t make, or your Internet provider is unduly throttling your data, those are issues the FCC can assist you with. This includes consumer complaints related to robocalls and the Do Not Call registry, which are also covered by the FTC, so if you’re being harassed by telemarketers or phone scammers, you can file a report with both the FCC and FTC. The FCC’s process for complaints is a bit more transparent than the FTC’s, and includes a system that updates you on your complaint’s status for certain kinds of issues. It also requires the company you’re complaining about to give you and the FCC a response within 30 days, and if the company is still unwilling to help you, the FCC may be able to help you take action.

You can file a complaint with the FCC using its complaint center, or by calling 1-888-225-5322.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

The youngest federal consumer protection agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB, was created in 2011 as a response to the 2008 financial crisis. Its goal is to protect consumers from abuse in the financial sector, which covers bank accounts, credit reports, credit cards, debt collection, mortgages and loans. Even within its short history, the CFPB has already enforced financial regulations in dozens of cases, including major cases against debt relief company Morgan Drexen and bank Wells Fargo. In addition to taking on big cases, the CFPB touts its efficiency with individual issues, reporting that 97% of consumers receive a response from a company within 15 days after filing a CFPB complaint about it. After you get a response from a company, you then have the ability to review the response, providing feedback for how satisfied you are with the outcome. The CFPB regularly publishes complaints with the consent of the consumer, so if you want to see the results of complaints similar to yours, you can.

You can file a complaint with the CFPB on its complaint page. If you have a question, you can call 1-855-411-2372.

State-level agencies

It’s not just the federal government that can help you with consumer complaints. A variety of state agencies are ready to assist you with more local issues, such as problems related to housing, utilities and insurance. For housing rental disputes, you can contact your state’s office of the attorney general for legal resources and assistance (however, if your case involves discrimination or your landlord receives assistance from the federal government, you should instead report the issue to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD). If you’re having trouble with your utilities, your state public utilities commission should be able to help you, although you should note that it may go by a slightly different name in your particular state, such as the public service commission or corporation commission. Consumer complaints about insurance are best handled by the office of your state’s insurance commissioner, but keep in mind that each state is different when it comes to what powers the commissioner has. An issue that the insurance commissioner could help with in one state may not translate to another.

While some companies may not always respect your rights, there are tons of government workers who are passionate about fighting for fair business practices. To learn more about resolving your consumer issues, you can find plenty of advice on our personal finance blog.