Filing a Consumer Complaint
If you are dissatisfied with the product or service provided by a Maryland business, there are government and non-government agencies which provide a way for you to pursue a complaint. You can:
- File a complaint with the Maryland Office of the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division.
- File a complaint with the Maryland Department of Labor.
- File a complaint with the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
- Try Alternative Dispute Resolution like mediation or arbitration.
- File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.
- File a complaint with the court.
What is the Office of the Attorney General's (OAG) Consumer Protection Division?
The Consumer Protection Division provides mediation services to consumers to help resolve complaints against businesses and health insurance carriers. The Division can also provide information about complaints that have been filed against businesses, tell you if your new home builder or health club is properly registered and provide publications to help you make good decisions in the marketplace.
Filing a Complaint with the OAG’s Consumer Protection Division
Filing a Complaint with the Office of the Attorney General's (OAG) Consumer Protection Division. 3 Ways to Get a Complaint Form:
- Call to request a complaint form one of the Consumer Protection Branch offices.
- Pick one up at one of the twenty state Comptroller of Maryland taxpayer service offices.
- Download and print a complaint form online.
What Happens to Your Complaint
After receiving your complaint, the OAG verifies that it falls within its authority. The Division typically handles complaints about goods, services, or credit used for personal, household, family, or agricultural purposes. If your complaint falls within the OAG’s authority, you can ask that a volunteer mediator work with you and the business to work out an agreement that everyone is happy with. It may take several weeks to assign your complaint to a volunteer mediator. The OAG may also investigate the company for violations of Maryland law and take enforcement action against the business. If your complaint falls within the scope of authority of another state or federal agency, the OAG will automatically transfer your complaint for you. So, filing a complaint within the OAG Division will not prevent you from filing your complaint with any other agency or court.
Tip: Before filing your complaint, you can call the Consumer Protection Division (410-528-8662) to find out where your complaint should be filed. This will help save you time.
What is the Maryland Department of Labor?
The Maryland Department of Labor provides regulatory oversight for debt collectors and other businesses that provide certain financial services to consumers in Maryland. The Department can verify if the businesses are licensed to operate and perform services in Maryland, as well as accept complaints by consumers against the regulated businesses.
Filing a Complaint with the Department of Labor’s Commissioner of Financial Regulation Consumer Services Unit
Filing a Complaint with the Department of Labor’s Commissioner of Financial Regulation Consumer Services Unit. 3 Ways to Get a Complaint Form:
- Call to request a complaint form one.
- Pick one up at 500 North Calvert Street, Baltimore, MD, 21202 Suite 402.
- Download and print a complaint form online.
What is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)?
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) educates consumers about financial products and services, analyzes information to understand and keep watch over consumer markets, and enforces federal consumer laws. CFPB has jurisdiction over entities like banks, mortgage servicers, debt collectors, and payday lenders, and financial products like student loans, payday loans, credit cards and virtual currency.
Filing a complaint with the CFPB
If you have a problem with a financial product or service, you can choose to either file a complaint online or tell your story. If you choose to file a complaint, the CFPB will forward it to the company and work to get a response about your issue. You will receive email updates and can track the status of your complaint online. The CFPB will let you know when/if the company responds. Complaint data is then shared with state and federal law enforcement agencies.
CFPB Areas of Complaints
You can submit a consumer complaint in one or more of the following areas:
- Payday Loans
- Student Loans
- Pawn Loans
- Vehicle Loans or Leases
- Bank Accounts or Services
- Debt Collection
- Credit Cards or Prepaid Cards
- Money Transfer or Virtual Currency
- Credit Reporting
- Tax Refund Anticipation Checks
What is Alternative Dispute Resolution?
There are a variety of methods for resolving disputes between parties without traditional legal representation or litigation. Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) involves a neutral third party who works with both parties in the dispute to resolve their differences.
ADR can save both parties’ significant time and money because it is conducted in a less formal manner than traditional litigation. There is usually much greater flexibility regarding where the proceedings take place and the possible solutions for resolving your problem.
Common Methods of ADR
In mediation, a neutral person helps two or more parties reach a voluntary settlement. The mediator should not give legal advice, opinions, or suggest how issues should be resolved. In mediation, both parties involved play an active role and decide the final outcome of the dispute with the assistance of the Mediator. Agreements are only final when all parties sign their name on the agreement. Parties cannot be forced to agree to anything.
The Maryland Courts offer mediation services that are free in many cases. For more information about court-based mediation, visit www.mdcourts.gov/macro.
Arbitration is like a "private trial." Parties submit the dispute and evidence support their position to one or more neutral people who reach a final and binding decision. Arbitrator(s) may be attorneys or business professionals with expertise in the consumer field. They decide the issues to be resolved, the possible awards, and how the process will proceed. Arbitrators may charge a fee.
Note: decisions reached by the arbitrators are usually final and not reviewed further by the courts.
What Is the Better Business Bureau?
Better Business Bureaus (BBBs) are nonprofit organizations supported primarily by local business members. The focus of BBB activities is to promote an ethical marketplace by encouraging honest advertising and selling practices, and by providing alternative dispute resolution. BBBs offer a variety of consumer services. For example, they provide consumer education material and provide information about charities and other organizations that are seeking public donations.
Contact Your Local Maryland Better Business Bureau
The BBB will act as an intermediary between you and the BBB member. Search the Better Business Bureau to find out whether a Maryland company is a BBB member.
Filing a Complaint with Your Better Business Bureau
You can file a complaint online or in writing. Disputes must relate to marketplace issues involved in the buying or selling of the services or products the business, such as problems with product/service or alleged business misrepresentations or violations of business policy. Within 2 business days of your filing the complaint, your local BBB will then forward your complaint to the company involved. The company has 14 days to respond before a second request is made. The local BBB will notify you of the business' response (or if the BBB has received no response). Complaints are usually closed within 30 business days. If the complaint cannot be resolved through communication with the business, the BBB may offer an alternative dispute settlement process, such as mediation or arbitration. Note: BBBs do not judge or rate individual products or brands, handle employer/employee wage disputes, handle discrimination claims, or give legal advice.
Filing Your Claim in a Maryland Court
If you are considering filing a court case to resolve your complaint, you should consider talking to a lawyer. If your claim is for $30,000 or less, and you do not have a lawyer, you can speak to a lawyer for free at the District Court Self-Help Center. The Self-Help Center’s services are free and are limited. This is a service that will provide you with advice so you will be able to represent yourself. The Self-Help Center lawyer will not represent you in court.
The twelve District Courts of Maryland have the exclusive power to adjudicate civil matter claims involving $5,000 or less. These courts are also known as “Small Claims Courts.” If your claim(s) involves amounts above $5,000 and below $30,000 you may file in either a District Court or Circuit Court. However, if your claim exceeds $30,000 then you must file in one of the twenty-four Circuit Courts of Maryland, except in some landlord-tenant matters. If you are not sure where to file your case, talk to a lawyer.
For information about filing a claim in a Maryland District Court, look at the Small Claims Brochure.