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Complaint vs. FIR: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Published on November 18, 2023
A "Complaint" is a general expression of discontent or grievance, while an "FIR" (First Information Report) is a formal police report initiating a criminal investigation in some jurisdictions.

Key Differences

A "Complaint" is an expression of dissatisfaction or a claim of wrongdoing. This term is universal and can be used in various contexts, from customer feedback to personal grievances. An "FIR," however, has a more specific legal connotation.
An "FIR" stands for First Information Report. It's a document filed by the police in countries like India when they receive information about the commission of a cognizable offense. A "Complaint," on the other hand, doesn't necessarily invoke legal proceedings.
The process of filing a "Complaint" can vary based on its nature and context. For instance, a customer complaint can be lodged online, in person, or via phone. An "FIR," however, usually requires a visit to a police station and involves a more formal procedure.
While any individual or entity can make a "Complaint" about various matters, an "FIR" is specifically related to criminal activities. It's the first step in a legal process that could lead to an investigation and, potentially, a trial.
Both "Complaint" and "FIR" serve to address grievances, but their implications are vastly different. A "Complaint" can be informal and may not result in any concrete action. In contrast, an "FIR" sets the wheels of justice in motion, leading to a structured legal process.

Comparison Chart


An expression of dissatisfaction or claim of wrongdoing.
A formal police report initiating a criminal investigation.


General and can be used in various contexts.
Specific to legal/criminal contexts in some jurisdictions.


Varies based on context.
Requires formal procedure, typically at a police station.


May not invoke legal proceedings.
Initiates a legal process, possibly leading to a trial.

Use Cases

Customer feedback, personal grievances, etc.
Reports of cognizable offenses in jurisdictions like India.

Complaint and FIR Definitions


A statement accusing someone of a crime.
A complaint was made about the theft.


The first step in a legal criminal process.
The police cannot delay registering an FIR.


A physical ailment or malady.
His main complaint was a persistent cough.


A document that sets a legal inquiry in motion.
Based on the FIR, the investigation was initiated.


A reason for being unhappy or unsatisfied.
My only complaint is the lack of parking space.


Initial documentation of a criminal offense.
The victim's statement was recorded in the FIR.


An expression of dissatisfaction.
I have a complaint about this product's quality.


A formal police report in some jurisdictions.
After the robbery, an FIR was filed.


A formal statement of grievance.
She filed a complaint against her neighbor.


A record of the first information about a crime.
The FIR mentioned the details of the incident.


An expression of pain, dissatisfaction, or resentment.


Any of various evergreen trees of the genus Abies, having linear flattened needles and erect cones with deciduous scales.


A cause or reason for complaining; a grievance
What is your complaint?.


Any of several similar or related trees, such as the Douglas fir.


A bodily disorder or disease; a malady or ailment.


The wood of any these trees.


The symptom or distress about which a patient seeks medical assistance.


A conifer of the genus Abies.


A formal statement initiating a lawsuit by specifying the facts and legal grounds for the relief sought.


Any pinaceous conifer of related genera, especially a Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga) or a Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris).


A formal charge, made under oath, of the commission of a crime or other such offense.


(uncountable) Wood of such trees.


The act of complaining.


A genus (Abies) of coniferous trees, often of large size and elegant shape, some of them valued for their timber and others for their resin. The species are distinguished as the balsam fir, the silver fir, the red fir, etc. The Scotch fir is a Pinus.


A grievance, problem, difficulty, or concern.
I have no complaints about the quality of his work, but I don't enjoy his company.


Nonresinous wood of a fir tree


(legal) In a civil action, the first pleading of the plaintiff setting out the facts on which the claim is based;
The purpose is to give notice to the adversary of the nature and basis of the claim asserted.


Any of various evergreen trees of the genus Abies; chiefly of upland areas


(legal) In criminal law, the preliminary charge or accusation made by one person against another to the appropriate court or officer, usually a magistrate.
However, court proceedings, such as a trial, cannot be instituted until an indictment or information has been handed down against the defendant.


A bodily disorder or disease; the symptom of such a disorder.
Don't come too close; I've got this nasty complaint.


Expression of grief, regret, pain, censure, or resentment; lamentation; murmuring; accusation; fault-finding.
I poured out my complaint before him.
Grievous complaints of you.


Cause or subject of complaint or murmuring.
The poverty of the clergy in England hath been the complaint of all who wish well to the church.


An ailment or disease of the body.
One in a complaint of his bowels.


A formal allegation or charge against a party made or presented to the appropriate court or officer, as for a wrong done or a crime committed (in the latter case, generally under oath); an information; accusation; the initial bill in proceedings in equity.


An often persistent bodily disorder or disease; a cause for complaining


(formerly) a loud cry (or repeated cries) of pain or rage or sorrow


An expression of grievance or resentment


(civil law) the first pleading of the plaintiff setting out the facts on which the claim for relief is based


(criminal law) a pleading describing some wrong or offense;
He was arrested on a charge of larceny


In which countries is an FIR commonly used?

FIR is primarily used in countries like India.

Is every complaint legally actionable?

No, not every complaint results in legal action.

What does "FIR" stand for?

"FIR" stands for First Information Report.

Is a "Complaint" always written?

No, complaints can be verbal or written.

Who typically files an FIR?

An FIR is usually filed by the police based on received information.

What is a general use of the term "Complaint"?

"Complaint" can denote any expression of dissatisfaction or grievance.

Can a "Complaint" be about a product or service?

Yes, it can be an expression of dissatisfaction about a product or service.

What follows after an FIR is registered?

Typically, an investigation is initiated post-FIR.

Can a business receive a "Complaint"?

Yes, customers often lodge complaints about products or services.

Can a "Complaint" refer to a medical condition?

Yes, e.g., "His main complaint was a headache."

Who can access the details of an FIR?

It varies by jurisdiction, but typically involved parties and authorized personnel can access it.

What's the main purpose of an FIR?

To formally initiate a criminal investigation based on reported information.

Are all complaints valid?

Not necessarily; they are subjective and vary based on individual perspectives.

How quickly should a "Complaint" be addressed?

Ideally, as soon as possible, but it depends on the nature and context.

What's the significance of an FIR in legal terms?

It's crucial as it sets the wheels of justice in motion for a particular case.

Is an FIR a public document?

In many jurisdictions, it's a public document, but access may be restricted based on the case's sensitivity.

Is the information in an FIR always accurate?

An FIR contains initial information, which may need verification during the investigation.

How is a "Complaint" addressed in customer service?

It's typically addressed through resolution mechanisms like refunds, replacements, or service improvements.

Can "Complaint" be used in legal terms?

Yes, it can refer to an official statement accusing someone of a crime.

Can an FIR be filed for non-cognizable offenses?

Generally, an FIR is for cognizable offenses, but procedures can vary based on jurisdiction.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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