Does filing a complaint online compromise your legal rights?

Imagine the following scenario: you took your partner out for a romantic meal at a restaurant he or she had wanted to try for months for what you had sincerely hoped and believed would be an enjoyable and unforgettable evening.

Instead, and much to your disappointment, the service at the restaurant was terrible and both you and your partner found the food to be overpriced and mediocre. When you inquired whether a certain ingredient in a dish you wanted to order could be substituted due to a potentially fatal food allergy as a result of one of the listed ingredients, the waiter became huffy and downright rude and even refused to ask the chef if a substitution was possible until relenting at the last moment and asking the chef for you.

The dish your partner ordered was served lukewarm and the final bill included several drinks you did not order and also a substantial upcharge for the substitution you had to make for allergy-related reasons. The various inadequacies all added up to end up making for a terrible experience for both of you. Both you and your significant other now want to do something about it by filing a complaint online against the restaurant to dissuade others from having to undergo the same terrible experience you had. Your only question is whether, by virtue of doing so, you are potentially putting any legal rights you may have in connection with this experience at risk.

As it turns out, the question in both you and your significant other’s mind is not all that uncommon. Although an experience at a restaurant is not typically a situation in which the potential waiver of any legal claims by making a complaint would matter, this question is much more important in transactions where the dollar or euro amount involved is much higher. For instance, if you purchase a car from an automobile dealership that you had mistakenly believed to be reputable, but then it turns out you spend thousands of dollars for a car that actually did not perform as advertised or had all sorts of problems, then you are in a much different situation. In the latter case, many consumers may wonder if, by virtue of filing an online complaint against the automotive dealership, they may waive any rights they have to pursue legal claims against a company. For example, if a customer ordered a product from a merchant and was then dissatisfied with the product for any number of reasons, including that it did not perform as advertised, it was not of suitable quality, the company’s customer service was very poor, or any other reason, the customer can complain online through any number of online or other channels.

Do I compromise my legal position when I file a complaint online?

However, in virtually any jurisdiction in the United States or Europe, making a complaint about a business or service provider online has no prejudice to any legal rights the consumer may have with respect to whatever it was about the business or service that led the consumer to complain in the first place. This is a fancy way of saying that, simply by complaining online, the consumer does not give up any legal recourse the individual may have against the business. Filing a complaint online is simply a means of alerting others of the problems you had in working with a particular business or service provider. There is no legal significance to the act of making a complaint about the fact that the automobile dealership in the scenario above sent you a defective car.

If anything, this is doing a service to the potential future customers of this business or service provider because it can lead to others not having a similarly poor experience with that business or service provider. However, the consumer may, by putting his or her opinion out there, may also be exposing his or her identity to the business or service provider. This may cause the business or service provider to put a greater emphasis on serving their customers in the future or providing better quality products because they know it is not some anonymous troll or disgruntled ex-employee that is making the complaint, but is instead an actual customer. This may make the business take the feedback more seriously so that it improves in the future.

Conclusion: If you had a bad experience with a business or service provider, feel free to submit a complaint online without any worries that you are jeopardizing your legal rights.

You can rest easy if you have a terrible experience with a company and want to file a complaint online, as by doing so you likely will not prejudice any legal rights you may have in connection with whatever business you did with that company. Therefore, the next time you have a bad meal or buy a car from a dealership and it turns out not to have performed as advertised, then let others know of you experience so that someone else does not find themselves in the same situation.