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Ways to Resolve your Complaint

Ways to Resolve your Dispute

Before you send your complaint to the Attorney General’s Office, here are some things to consider in seeking a solution to your dispute with a business. This information is provided as a general guide and not intended as legal advice.

The First Step

To get started, you should clearly identify your problem and consider what would be a fair and realistic resolution to your dispute. Gather all your supporting documents such as receipts, contracts, warranties, repair orders, ads, promotional literature, cancelled checks and account numbers. You will need to make copies of relevant documents to use in the course of resolving your dispute.

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“Friendly” Approach Might Resolve The Problem

The first step should be calling the company. Your contact could resolve your issue(s) immediately. If your matter is not resolved immediately from the phone call, follow up with a letter and keep a copy. Your letter should state only the important details and what you want done. Include copies of relevant documents, but keep the originals for your files. If you paid by credit card, write your credit card company within 60 days of the purchase that you are disputing the charge.

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Consider a Compromise

If your demands are not met fully, you may wish to propose a fair settlement. A compromise solution sometimes is better than no solution at all.

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The Next Steps

If you are unable to reach a compromise, you will want to evaluate your situation to determine the next best course of action for you. Each has its advantages, disadvantages and cost.

You can pursue the matter personally in Small Claims Court. You can hire a lawyer to represent you in court. You can seek the help of an impartial third party in mediation. You can pay someone to decide your dispute in arbitration.

You can find information on these and other avenues for dispute resolution from the California Courts, consumer groups, local Bar Associations, the Better Business Bureau and other organizations.

California Courts

Local Bar Associations

Better Business Bureau

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Small Claims Court

You may also wish to consider filing a Small Claims Court action. These are informal courts where disputes are resolved quickly and inexpensively by a judge.You can recover up to $10,000 in Small Claims Court. You represent yourself and can request a judgment for monetary damages. You may get additional information about this procedure by contacting your local small claims court.

For contact information, please go to: http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/selfhelp/smallclaims/

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Mediation

In mediation, the parties work with an impartial third person who is trained in the process of resolving disputes. Mediators are not advocates, judges, or legal representatives. Unlike a judge, a mediator does not issue a ruling and the informal negotiation process focuses on having the parties talk to each other to arrive at their own solution. Many communities have dispute resolution centers and other low-cost mediation services available. Check with the clerk of the Small Claims Clerk, the county consumer affairs office or local public or private dispute resolution programs.

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Arbitration

Arbitration is another alternative to filing a lawsuit. Like mediation, arbitration hearings are not held in courtrooms and formal legal procedures not followed, but the decision of the arbitrator is legally binding and may be enforced the same as a court judgment. In arbitration, your complaint is heard by an impartial third party who issues a decision after hearing both sides. You can use a lawyer or represent yourself in arbitration hearings. Both sides must agree to participate in arbitration. You cannot force the other party to appear at an arbitration hearing if the original agreement does not require arbitration.

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Hire A Lawyer

You can consult an attorney and file a lawsuit against the business. To find a lawyer, you may want to ask people you trust for recommendations. Some county bar associations have lawyer-referral programs. Some communities have low-cost legal clinics. For more information, see Consult With A Private Attorney.

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Protecting Consumers

State & Federal Laws

You can search California laws on the Internet

California Law

View a checklist of significant California consumer laws

CA Dept of Consumer Affairs

Search U.S. laws on the Internet at U.S. Code

U.S. Code

Megan's Law

California Registered Sex Offender Database

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