The United States has evolved a sophisticated, tiered system of consumer redress. At the bottom are several voluntary, business and industry supported mechanisms where customers can get satisfaction for problems with products or services. If none of these processes gives the customer what he needs, however, he can take his case to the courts.
Express warranty is often used as a means of customer redress. Express warranties are usually written or verbal promises to repair or replace a defective product, for a particular time period or in perpetuity. Although in some cases a vendor or manufacturer may be legally required to provide this service anyway, an express warranty clearly spells out that obligation, increasing consumer confidence and allowing the company to efficiently redress any customer complaints.
A guarantee is one step above a warranty. While a warranty may exclude damage based on negligence and often only covers repair or replacement, a guarantee offers customers their money back if they are unhappy for any reason. Guarantees are a great way to increase customer confidence and loyalty.
Customer service is a service offered by a vendor or manufacturer where professionals are hired to take calls or emails or respond to customer inquiries. Customer service people can take complaints, offer advice and assistance and provide customer redress. Customer service can efficiently process warranty and guarantee offers and offer other, lesser forms of compensation such as gift certificates and coupons to appease irritated consumers.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Some organizations such as the Better Business Bureau offer Alternative Dispute Resolution or ADR. If a consumer and a company agree, they can take a dispute to a public organization like the BBB, allowing both parties to receive a ruling without the expense, inconvenience and bad-press of a court procedure. There are also private ADR organizations such as industry seals. If a business displays a Good Housekeepers seal or some other seal of approval, it has agreed to abide by quality standards of that organization. Those organizations have standards for dispute resolution which the business must abide by or risk losing its right to display the industry seal.
If a consumer cannot find sufficient redress through other channels, she may take it up with the courts. Legal consumer redress ranges from small-claims courts for minor monetary losses, to general court suits for complaints over $5,000 dollars, to class action suits. If a company is willfully marketing a dangerous or defective product or using illegal or deceptive advertising, the Federal Trade Commission or individual state governments may also step in and take legal action against the company.