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Complaints? Turn 'Em In!

Whether you've been scammed, harmed by an unsafe product, or not gotten your money's worth, a Government agency will listen and take action on your complaint.

Action? Does the government really take action on individual consumer complaints? Yes, it does. For example, read through some of the these "Commission Actions" of the Federal Trade Commission. Indeed, complaints and comments from individuals are the backbone of America's consumer protection system.

In this feature, you will find agencies, bureaus, and commissions that accept and investigate consumer complaints and reports. Be aware that a complaint to one agency may trigger action on the part of another. For example, a complaint about a cosmetic product to the Federal Trade Commission may be acted on by the Food and Drug Administration.

Category of Product or Problem

Almost Anything 
Air Travel

Automobiles and Related Products
Consumer Products (Non-food/drug)
Environmental Problems & Violations
Food, Drugs & Cosmetic Products 
Internet Fraud

Investment-related Products and Services
Medicare Fraud
Nursing Facilities
Telephone Related

Almost Anything

The Federal Trade Commission accepts complaints related to any consumer or business-practice problem. This may be the best place to complain about email spam, online scams, and telemarketing in general.

While the FTC does not resolve individual consumer complaints, they  use complaints to help identify areas needing direct enforcement action and to inform the public of consumer problems. (FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection)

FTC offers this multi-purpose complaint form for lodging a complaint or comment about most consumer, business, or commerce-related issues. For security reasons, do not include any personal information (account numbers, Social Security numbers, etc.) in this form.

You can also contact the FTC by telephone or surface mail at:
202-FTC-HELP (202-382-4357)

Federal Trade Commission
Washington, D.C. 20580

Air Travel

Air Travel Service Problems
Aviation Consumer Protection Division (ACPD) operates a complaint handling system for consumers who experience air travel service problems. Here you will find forms, phone numbers and email addresses for reporting service-related problems.

Aviation Consumer Protection Division
U.S. Department of Transportation
Room 4107, C-75
Washington, DC 20590

Airline or Airport safety or security problems should be reported to the Federal Aviation Administration at toll-free 1-800-322-7873.

Automobiles - Vehicle Safety or Defects

Use this online Vehicle Owner's Questionnaire to report safety or operational defects to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. You can also call the DOT Auto Safety Hotline at 1-888-DASH-2-DOT (1-888-327-4236) or 1-800-424-9393 and a NHTSA representative will record your report. Search for existing defect reports.

Consumer Products, General - Safety or Defects

Consumer Product Safety Commission
Use this Online Consumer Product Incident Report form for reporting any injury or death involving consumer product, or to report an unsafe product. You can also report an incident or unsafe product by calling toll-free at 1-800-638-2772.

The Health Care Professional Consumer Product Incident Report form should be used by physicians and other health care professionals to report injuries or deaths involving consumer products, or unsafe products, to CPSC.

Environmental Problems & Violations

EPA - Environmental Emergencies
For reporting any "sudden threat to the public health, or the well-being of the environment, arising from the release or potential release of oil, radioactive materials, or hazardous chemicals into the air, land, or water." You will also find links to state and local response teams and contacts, plus information on specific types of environmental emergencies.

To Report Oil and Chemical Spills, call the National Response Center:

To report Environmental Violations - visit the EPA's Environmental Violations page and use the clickable map to find the correct EPA Field office to call.

EPA State Emergency Response Commissions
Reporting and response information for each state.

Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics

The Food and Drug Administration "...is responsible for ensuring that foods are safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled. It also oversees medicines, medical devices (from bandages to artificial hearts), blood products, vaccines, cosmetics, veterinary drugs, animal feed, and electronic products that emit radiation (such as microwave ovens and video monitors), ensuring that these products are safe and effective." The FDA accepts complaints related to any adverse reactions to any of those products.

First, read How to Report Adverse Reactions with FDA Regulated Products.

FDA Emergency Reports - report suspected cases of food-borne illnesses or drug product tampering to the FDA's main emergency phone number, staffed 24 hours a day, 301-443-1240.

FDA Non-Emergency, Food - to report problems with any food product except meat and poultry, contact the FDA district office in your geographic location. Problems with meat and poultry products should be reported to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, USDA hotline at 1-800-535-4555.

FDA - Medicines & Medical Products - includes drugs (prescription and over-the-counter), medical devices, blood products and other biologicals, special nutritional products (dietary supplements, infant formula, medical foods). Report serious adverse events and problems with these products to FDA's MedWatch Program. You can fill out an interactive online MedWatch form, or download a MedWatch form, or request that a form be mailed to you by calling the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088 (1-800-332-1088).

FDA - Veterinary Products - "Report any problems with veterinary drugs and animal feed to FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine at 1-888-FDA-VETS (1-888-332-8387)." - FDA

FDA - Cosmetics - "Call the FDA Cosmetics and Colors Automated Information Line 1-800-270-8869, for information on how to report adverse reactions to cosmetics, as well as problems such as filth, decomposition, or spoilage." - FDA

USDA - Meat and Poultry Products - Call the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1 (800) 535-4555.

Internet Fraud

Internet Fraud Complaint Center - Complaint Form
For filing reports of suspected fraud conducted over the Internet. Be sure to read the notices above the form. (Also See: File Internet Fraud Complaints Online.)

Investments - Stock Brokers, Sales Practices

Securities and Exchange Commission
If you have a complaint about an investment, a broker, or unfair sales practices, contact the SEC's Office of Investor Education and Assistance.  Contact by email at help@sec.gov. Telephone: 202-942-7040  FAX: 202-942-9634 - How SEC will handle your complaint.
For maximum confidentiality, contact the SEC via regular mail at:

Office of Investor Education and Assistance
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
Mail Stop 2-13
450 Fifth Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20549

Medicare Fraud

The Department of Health and Human Services wants you to report cases of Medicare Fraud by calling the HHS Inspector General Hotline toll-free at 1-800-447-8477 (1-800-HHS-TIPS). Who pays for Medicare fraud? We all do.

Nursing Home Facilities

The Federal Trade Commission offers this list of officials to call for reporting unsatisfactory conditions or practices in nursing care facilities.

Telephone Related

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) handles complaints about companies that provide telephone-related services. First, read the FCC's Customer Complaints page. You can then complete an Online Complaint form or send a Consumer Complaint letter.

Suggested Reading
Shocked, Appalled, and Dismayed: How to Write Letters of Complaint That Get Results by Ellen Phillips (Vintage, 1997) -- contains appendices with well documented additional federal, state, and trade resources.

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