Consumer rights: Think before firing off a social media complaint

Reputation managers are protecting firms who are unfairly reviewed, so if you feel badly treated give companies a chance to put things right

'Stop the damage to your reputation. Prevent lies, rumours..." – just one of many online ads from firms happy to help others protect their most important asset: a good reputation.

Many of us turn to the internet before booking a restaurant or a holiday, buying from a company we haven't used before, or in search of the best possible deal. Consumers have less to spend so we're fussier about who we buy from. We base decisions on the comments of people, like us, about how good or bad their experiences were.

Negative posts on Twitter, Facebook or blogs make us hesitate and look elsewhere. We want to deal with reputable firms and the internet is a great forum for finding recommendations. If we do buy, we in turn are invited to tell other browsers about our experiences.

So firms are watching what's being said about them on social media. And they're very keen to protect their names. As a result there's been a proliferation of reputation management companies waiting to pounce on us if our comments could be construed as critical or unfair.

More and more consumers are reporting that they've been asked to change or withdraw negative remarks and have even been threatened with legal action for damaging a firm's reputation and business. So if the food has left you fuming or you're disgusted by the service, think carefully before you let rip with the mouse. What you say must be true and you should be able to prove it. Just as in good old-fashioned print, lies and exaggerations which can damage reputations can land you in hot water.

Any organisation, no matter how good, can have an off day. The true measure of a reputable company isn't that they never get things wrong but that they act quickly and decisively to rectify the matter so they should be given a chance to put things right. Even though it's easy to reach for the keyboard it's best to pursue your complaint in a reasonable fashion. Ask to talk to someone who can deal with the problem. Discuss it without exaggerating and present any evidence such as photos or witness accounts.

Be clear about what you will accept by way of apology but be reasonable in your demands and polite. If the problem isn't resolved at first attempt, ask for the details of a person higher up the chain and write to them. Keep copies of all letters or emails. It always pays to check out your consumer rights with local advice agencies or through Consumer Direct (08454 040506) especially if you feel you're entitled to more than just an apology and your money back.

When you've checked your legal position explain it to the company. If you don't get satisfaction you can make a claim through the courts. Most firms won't want that and will settle. But if they don't, remember that both sides will have a chance to present their case in court and a judge may not agree with your arguments. Be willing to negotiate. If the problem is a bigger one, and you've been injured for example, get legal advice before accepting any offer of a settlement.

Of course there are bad companies out there. If you do fall foul of one, making a claim could mean throwing good money after bad. It may be easier and cheaper to cut your losses and run. But if you have a bad experience and want to help others to avoid that same mistake by spreading the word, make sure you can prove what you say before you press send.

Q. I've been managing my debts for the past two years. I cleared arrears on rent, council tax and bills, and set up payments for loans and cards. But I'm told my work contract won't be renewed and I won't get a redundancy payment. I know I won't get much help apart from rent and council tax. I have no savings because of the repayments and I can't see a way to keep on paying the amounts agreed unless I get another job straight away. The adviser did suggest last time that I could go bankrupt but I didn't like that idea. Is it a good option?

FC, Brighton

A. Go back to the adviser or the agency. It may be possible to renegotiate reduced payments. You must be aware of the consequences of bankruptcy. You're renting so you don't have a home to lose but check the tenancy agreement in case it says anything about bankruptcy. If you are bankrupt you could still be asked to pay something towards the debts for three years. You should be discharged from bankruptcy in 12 months. From then it's back to business as usual. Applying to make yourself bankrupt costs £700.

moneyagonyaunt.com

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Digital Optimisation Executive - Marketing

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's fastest growing, multi...

    Recruitment Genius: Financial Reporting Manager

    £70000 - £90000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Financial Reporting Manager i...

    Recruitment Genius: Payments Operations Assistant

    £23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They win lots of awards for the...

    Recruitment Genius: Telephone Debt Negotiator

    £13500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This nationwide enforcement com...

    Day In a Page

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific