What is a complaint and the timescales for resolution?

Complaints are a common aspect of human interaction and organizational dynamics. They serve as a means for individuals to express their dissatisfaction, grievances, or concerns about a particular issue, product, service, or situation. Understanding what constitutes a complaint is crucial for individuals, businesses, and organizations to effectively address and resolve these issues. In this document, we will explore the essential elements that make up a complaint.

What is a Complaint?

A complaint is a formal or informal expression of dissatisfaction, annoyance, or discontent made by an individual or group of individuals. It is often a means of voicing concerns, seeking resolution, or holding parties accountable for perceived shortcomings or wrongdoings. Complaints can take various forms, including verbal complaints, written complaints, online submissions, or even non-verbal expressions such as body language.


Components of a Complaint:


1. Subject of Complaint:

    • A complaint must have a clear subject or issue that is causing the dissatisfaction. This could be a product, service, behavior, action, or situation.


2. Expression of Dissatisfaction:

    • The complainant should express their dissatisfaction or unhappiness with the subject of the complaint. This can range from mild annoyance to severe frustration.


3. Statement of Grievance:

    • A complaint typically includes a statement of grievance, explaining what specifically has gone wrong or is unsatisfactory.


4. Identification of Parties:

    • Complaints often identify the parties involved in the issue, which could include individuals, companies, organizations, or government entities.


5. Request for Resolution:

    • Most complaints include a request for resolution or a desired outcome. The complainant may seek an apology, a refund, a replacement, improved service, or any other form of redress.


6. Supporting Information:

    • A well-structured complaint may provide supporting information such as details, evidence, dates, times, names of involved parties, and any relevant documentation to substantiate the claim.


7. Contact Information:

    • The complainant's contact information is typically included in the complaint, allowing the recipient to respond and address the issue.


8. Tone and Language:

    • The tone and language used in a complaint can vary, but it should generally remain respectful and professional. Avoiding offensive or aggressive language can improve the likelihood of a positive response.


9. Channel of Communication:

    • Complaints can be made through various channels, including in person, over the phone, via email, through online forms, or even through social media.


10. Follow-Up and Feedback:

    • Complaints often involve follow-up communication to track progress, provide additional information, or receive feedback on the resolution process.

Understanding FCA DISP Time Limit Rules:

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has established specific time limit rules under its Dispute Resolution: Complaints (DISP) rules, which govern how firms should handle and respond to complaints in the financial services sector. Some key points to understand about FCA DISP time limit rules include:

  • The FCA requires firms to acknowledge receipt of a complaint promptly, usually within three business days.

  • Firms are expected to provide a substantive response to the complaint within eight weeks, known as the "eight-week rule." If a complaint cannot be resolved within this time frame, the firm must inform the complainant of their right to refer the complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).

  • Complainants have six months to refer their complaint to the FOS once they have received a final response from the firm, or if the eight-week period has elapsed without a final response.

  • The FCA DISP rules aim to ensure that complaints are handled efficiently and fairly, promoting transparency and accountability in the financial services industry.


Complaints are a vital part of feedback mechanisms in personal, professional, and consumer relationships. Recognizing the components of a complaint is essential for effectively addressing issues and providing satisfactory solutions. Additionally, understanding and adhering to regulatory rules, such as the FCA DISP time limit rules, is crucial for firms in the financial services sector to ensure compliance and maintain trust with their customers. By combining a comprehensive understanding of complaints with regulatory requirements, all parties involved can work towards fair and effective resolution processes.

The BVRLA (British Vehicle Rental & Leasing Association) Conciliation Service


The BVRLA runs a Trading Standards Institute-approved alternative dispute resolution (ADR) service which is available in those rare circumstances where you have exhausted our member's complaints procedure and still remain dissatisfied.


Unresolved disputes may be referred to the BVRLA by the customer or the member involved, however the member cannot initiate a complaint against the customer.

The service operates by reviewing the evidence from both parties and determining whether there has been a breach of the relevant Code of Conduct.

To determine whether you are in a position to raise a complaint against a member follow the raise a complaint link below or review the frequently asked questions to understand more about the service. 

The BVRLA is approved by Government as a Consumer ADR body under the Alternative Dispute Resolution for Consumer Disputes (Competent Authorities and Information) Regulations 2015.


BVRLA - Advanced Dispute Resolution Service