Five common complaints and how to handle them

There’s a fly in your soup, the car you bought six months ago has suddenly sprung a leak and your doctor gave you the wrong diagnosis. Should you write these events off as a bad day or should you seek to complain to a higher power? Angelique Ruzicka finds out who you should report your complaint to.

1.    Bad service at a restaurant
The waitress takes forever to come around to take your order, your food comes late and is stone cold, or your steak comes well done despite the fact that you asked it to be medium rare. We’ve all experienced this type of service at a restaurant, so what should you do?
According to Eat Out enquiring politely about the mix up or mistake is the right way to go about it. The food and restaurant review website says incidents which merit a complaint include: waiting for your drinks for over ten minutes, nobody taking your order , something is wrong with your food, nobody clearing your plates and your food taking abnormally long to arrive.

Ask your waiter to address the situation. If he doesn’t address it or is rude then you should escalate the issue to the manager on duty. Allow the manager the time to explain why the mistake was made and give her the opportunity to rectify the situation.

If the situation is still not addressed you can work your way up the chain to the owner of the restaurant. If all else fails it’s time to get serious and get your complaint head through the media ( you can write to your local newspaper for example, write a review on websites such as Eat Out or if there’s a health and safety issue you can report the matter to the National Department of Health.

2.    Faulty car
Start with the place that you bought the car from. If you bought the car from a dealer (even a second hand dealership) you have recourse. The Motor Industry Ombudsman of South Africa has several guidelines on how t0 handle your dispute, which you should read first before you complain to the dealership principal.

If escalating the problem to the dealer principal and working your way up the chain to the marketing manager of the dealer chain or even the CEO does nothing for you, there are a number of organisations you can approach for help.

You can approach the Motor Industry Ombudsman by filing a complaint on their website. The Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI) will also take up your case if you have issues with a dodgy dealer have experienced bad service provided at a dealer garage. Make sure that the dealer you intend on dealing with is a member of the organisation first by checking out the RMI’s membership directory.

If you are a member of the Automobile Association they could also provide help in technical, legal and other services. They also offer tips and advice for paying members.

Finally, if you have a safety concern, you can always contact the South African Bureau of Standards. 

3.    Faulty goods
If you bought an item from a store or experienced bad service from a service provider you can also complain to the Consumer Goods and Services Ombudsman. The CGSO has been created to deal with complaints against suppliers and to alleviate the pressure on the National Consumer Commission, an organ of the State that was created as a result of the Consumer Protection Act.
Visit; call 0860 000 272; or email You can also call the NCC on 086 000 3600.

4.    Complain about financial advice
If your financial advisor, bank or debt counsellor is not giving you the proper advice or service you are after and you are unable to resolve the matter internally with the organisation they are affiliated with, then you can take your complaint further.
The Financial Intermediaries Association (FIA) and the Financial Planning Institute will listen to any complaints regarding financial advisors.

If you have an issue with your bank you can report it to Ombudsman for Banking Services. Should you have an issue with the services offered by your debt counsellor you can report them to the Debt Counsellors Association of South Africa.

5.    Complaint about a medical professional
Finally, if you have a complaint against your medical scheme, doctor, dentist, hospital or nursing professional the South African Medical Association has all the contact details of the bodies governing these professionals and organisations. Click here, to access the list.