How to Complain if Someone Owes You Money Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

How to Complain if Someone Owes You Money

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Some countries may differ in their approach to such matters mentioned in this guide entry, so do check the local law before you proceed.

If Someone Owes You Money

Complaining phone calls are almost always a waste of your time and money.

If calling1 the person who owes you money the first time does not solve your problem, then put the complaint in writing, keep a copy for yourself and let them know of your intention to sue if you are still ignored.

Firstly, it would be best if you could go round in person, and tell them that you will wait for them to raise a cheque. If this is not possible - the debtor is overseas, for example, or you can't get the time off work - then you should write to them.

Write to the person (or company) giving them 14 days to repay what they owe (from the date of your letter). If payment is not received within the 14 days, legal proceedings will follow. Send a Final Demand at 28 days.

Charge an additional £20 (or appropriate sum in any other currency) for the letter you are sending. If it is a bank you are writing to, they would charge you.

Make sure your letter contains all the appropriate information such as:

  • Full contact details and telephone number.

  • Contract number/account number/invoice number (for non-delivery of goods).

  • The dates you paid them and the date they promised the merchandise or service.

  • If you paid by cheque, give them your cheque number and the date the cheque was presented to your bank.

  • The date you phoned them and if possible, the person you spoke to.

  • If they have not responded by the 28th day, sue them through the County Court. (Or equivalent in your country).

A Draft Letter

Put a heading on the letter pointing out the subject, such as 'Request for refund of money owed' or something else appropriate.

Dear Sir/Madam,

You/your company owes me £*** (insert amount) for (state reason money is owed) which has been outstanding since (state date you originally paid). My telephone call/s have been ignored. The member of staff I spoke to was called Mr/Ms *** (state names/s) on (date and time).

I enclose all the relevant details (on a separate sheet). In addition to the money you owe, I expect you to reimburse me for my further losses including wasted phone call/s, my time and this letter which I am sending at a cost to yourselves of £20 (or appropriate currency).

Thus you now owe me:

  1. The money you have failed to pay/refund - £***
  2. The cost of the phone call/s - £*
  3. The cost of this letter - £20
  4. My time and inconvenience to myself (A suggestion, ask for your hourly rate multiplied by the time you have been waiting for your item since order or failed installation, etc.) - £**
  5. Interest on this money at the rate of £10 per day after 14 days has elapsed since the date of this letter.

Total Due: £*** (1 + 2 + 3 + 4) if paid within seven days.

If this money is not received within 14 days I will sue you/your company through the small claims court.

Yours faithfully,

(Your full name and reference or account number, and address if not at the start of your letter).

Keep all correspondence until you have resolved the matter to your satisfaction.

The Embarrasment Factor

If your complaint is against the local branch of some bank or building society there is a certain amount you can do locally. Bear in mind that a local branch manager is responsible for the performance of the branch, and local reputation has a large part to play in that.

The first thing to do is to try to get as high up the ladder as possible, as far as the branch manager; or at least the assistant manager. There's little point in dealing with the counter staff, who are probably just doing what they see as their job in refusing your request.

If you cannot get through to the big cheese, or if you do and it doesn't help, try and interest the local newspaper in the story. They may well contact the manager for an interview, and even if they don't get one it will send a strong message.

You could go into the branch at a time when there are lots of customers there and make a scene. Demand to see the manager. Demand your money back. Make a nuisance of yourself within the branch, within legal bounds of course. Walk up and down the pavement outside, carrying a placard demanding justice. If you stand still you could be arrested for obstruction (this is the case in UK law) but if you keep moving it's quite legal (don't write anything libellous on the placard, though).


If the person or company you have the dispute with is a 'man of straw', ie, of no means, then you can still sue, but if the defendant can't pay, you won't get your money and you'll have wasted your effort, particularly if you've sent the bailiffs in, all of which costs you money. If the debtor has gone bankrupt, find out the name of the firm acting for the liquidation of the business, and lodge your interest with them. You may not get all your money back but you should get an equal share of any proceeds with all the other claimants.

Credit Cards

If you paid by credit card:

Under English law, if you buy something by credit card, in effect the credit card company is buying it for you, and you then pay the credit card company back. The goods are not legally yours until you have paid the credit card company in full. This means that the credit card company is liable for the provision of the goods and services. So if they are not received, the credit card company must refund your money. However, it is expected that you would have taken reasonable steps to recover the money/goods yourself beforehand. Don't be fobbed off if the credit card company gives you grief, go back to step one and start the process again.

1If calling a company, ensure you take the name of the person you speak to, note it down with the time and date.

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