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Tips on getting action

WASHINGTON—To make a complaint that gets you satisfaction, here are some tips from consumer complaint experts.

_Be prepared. Keep your receipts, contracts and warranties. Keep copies of complaint letters. If you have phone conversations about a complaint, keep a record of the date and time, the person or persons spoken with and the gist of each conversation.

_Complain to the right people. If a sales agent doesn't give you satisfaction, ask for his or her supervisor. Continue up the management hierarchy to regional headquarters if necessary. Be firm but polite.

_Take your complaint to a government consumer agency if you're not satisfied. Your state attorney general's office and local consumer protection agencies will mediate your complaint. To find a local office, go to http://www.consumeraction.gov/state.shtml or www.nacaa.net.

_Act fast. State statutes of limitations vary. You may have as little as 60 days to complain before a transaction is final.

_Be persistent. Keep the phone numbers of consumer agency officials, too, and the date, time and essence of past conversations with them. Call them back periodically to get updated on your case's progress and to prod them.

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(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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