How to Write a Complaint Letter in French

Editor's note: This article is for those who are not quite fluent in French, and need to write a complaint letter or email in French. The article covers how to structure a French complaint letter and provides numerous examples of French phrases which can be used in such a letter.

It is frustrating to experience bad customer service or to receive a defective product. You can try fixing the issue by addressing your concerns to the business owner or their representative. To do so, you might want to start with a phone or an email. If you cannot fix the problem this way, you can consider writing a complaint letter.

Writing down your concerns is a way to keep your attempt to solve the issue with the company on record. It also shows that you are willing to take serious measures to resolve the matter. Finally, a letter helps you retain your legal rights in the proceedings. Read ahead to learn how to write an effective complaint letter in French.

What to Include in Your French Complaint Letter?

You should start your letter by writing down your address and the date at the top. You also want to include the company's name and their contact information. Once it is properly addressed, it is time to work on the body of your letter.

Start by describing the issue you are having with the business. You want to be detailed and provide all the relevant dates, as well as the exact reasons for your complaint.

Discuss when and where the problem occurred

It is a good practice to start a French complaint letter by informing your correspondant of the date and the location where you purchased the problematic good or service.

Here are some example French phrases to illustrate how this can be done:

J’ai acheté votre machine à café vendredi, le 17 décembre 2021, à votre succursale du centre-ville de Montréal. I bought your coffee machine on Friday December 17th, 2021, at your downtown Montreal branch.

J’ai visité votre restaurant mercredi dernier accompagné de ma femme et de mes enfants. J’étais assis à une table proche de la porte d’entrée. I visited your restaurant last Wednesday with my wife and kids. I sat at a table near the front door.

J’ai discuté avec le représentant de votre banque vendredi dernier, en après-midi. I spoke with your bank representative last Friday afternoon.

J’ai commandé vos produits pour la peau en ligne à partir de votre site internet personnel le 20 juin 2021. I ordered your skincare products online from your personal website on June 20th, 2021.

Describe what went wrong with your purchase

Once you have correctly identified the date and the place you have purchased the product or the service, it is time to explain the problem. Examples of French phrases you could use include:

Malheureusement, votre colis s’est fait endommager en cours de route et lorsque j’ai ouvert la boîte, le produit était brisé. Unfortunately, your package was damaged along the way, and when I opened the box, the product was broken.

J’ai essayé à plusieurs reprises de faire fonctionner l’appareil, mais il est impossible de le mettre en marche. I tried several times to get the device working, but it is impossible to turn it on.

Ma femme a clairement indiqué au serveur qu’elle était allergique aux noix, mais elle s’est tout de même fait servir des noix de Grenoble dans sa salade. My wife made it clear to the waiter that she was allergic to nuts, but she still got walnuts in her salad.

Le représentant a coupé la ligne avant même que nous ayons résolu mon problème et j’ai été incapable de ravoir la ligne par la suite, car elle était toujours occupée. The representative hung up before we fixed my problem, and I was unable to get the line back afterward because it was always busy.

Votre site internet indique que l’ensemble comprend deux types de crème, mais je n’en ai reçu qu’une seule. Your website states that the set includes two types of cream, but I have only received one.

Identify the actions you have already taken to attempt to solve the matter

You want to describe the actions you have already taken to fix the problem if you took any. You could use these French phrases to do so:

J’ai déjà appelé au numéro indiqué sur votre site internet deux fois en plus de laisser des messages, mais personne n’a retourné mes appels. I have already called the number listed on your website twice and left messages, but no one has returned my calls.

J’ai envoyé un courriel à trois reprises à votre service à la clientèle, mais je n’ai reçu aucune réponse. I emailed your customer service three times but have not received a response yet.

Après l’incident, j’ai demandé à parler au gérant, mais il n’était pas disponible et personne ne pouvait venir à sa place. After the incident, I asked to speak to the manager, but he was not available, and no one could come in his place.

J’ai demandé à être remboursé, mais on m’a dit que c’était impossible car le magasin n’était pas responsable des dégâts survenus durant le transport. I asked for a refund, but I was told it was not possible because the store was not responsible for any damage incurred during the transit.

Describe the outcome that you want

Identify the type of resolution you hope to achieve in your complaint letter. This way, the company knows exactly what they must do to improve your experience with them. You could write something like:

S’il n’est pas possible de me faire rembourser, j’aimerais recevoir un produit de remplacement dans les plus brefs délais. If it is not possible to get a refund, I would like to receive a replacement product as soon as possible.

J’aimerais recevoir les produits manquants à ma commande sans devoir débourser des frais de livraison supplémentaires. I would like to receive the items missing from my order without paying for additional shipping costs.

J’aimerais recevoir un avoir valable sur le prochain repas que nous achèterons à votre restaurant. I would like to receive a credit for the next meal we purchase at your restaurant.

J’aimerais qu’un représentant me contacte dans les plus brefs délais afin que nous puissions trouver une solution satisfaisante ensemble. I would like a representative to contact me as soon as possible to find a satisfactory solution together.

Provide a deadline for their response

If you want to solve the manner in a respectable timeframe, you can let them know the date by which they should contact you. You can also inform them of your next steps, should they fail to contact you in a timely manner.

Je m’attends à recevoir une réponse de votre part d’ici les dix prochains jours. I will be expecting a response from you within the next ten days.

Si je ne reçois pas de réponse, je vais devoir déposer une plainte auprès de la protection des consommateurs. If you do not get back to me, I will have to issue a complaint to consumer protection.

Si vous ne me répondez pas, je vais devoir informer votre siège social du problème. If you fail to respond, I will have to inform your headquarters of the issue.

Attach a Copy of Any Relevant Documents to your French Complaint Letter

Include any relevant documents you have in your complaint letter. Make sure to send copies and to keep the originals with you. This way, you will not lose any proof of your purchase. For example:

J’ai joint une copie de mon reçu afin de prouver mon achat. I have attached a copy of my receipt to show proof of my purchase.

J’inclus la copie de ma garantie à cette lettre afin de prouver qu’elle est encore valide. I am including a copy of my warranty with this letter to prove it is still valid.

J’inclus la liste de mes appels afin de démontrer que j’ai tenté de vous contacter à plusieurs reprises. I am including a list of my calls to show that I have attempted to contact you on several occasions.

Final Tips to Write a Complaint Letter in French

Make sure to end your letter with your full name and the best way to reach you so that the company can contact you to solve the issue.

When writing a French complaint letter, it is recommended to avoid using any angry, degrading, or threatening language. The person at the receiving end might have nothing to do with the issue and being rude will not solve the problem faster.

You can also send your letter by certified mail and ask for a return receipt. This way, you can ensure your letter does not get lost in the mail. It is also a way to prove that the company got your letter. Indeed, someone will have to sign at the time of the reception, proving the letter reached its recipient.

A final word…

And there you have it: the perfect way to write an effective letter in French. Hopefully, the article was helpful and provided you with the French words and phrases you need to write a good complaint letter. If you want additional tips and tricks on how to write a good letter in French, you can check out our other article: "How to Write an Informal Letter in French."

PS: you can use our free language tool, VocabChat to create and record your own French vocabulary and phrase lists.