The Consumer Federation of America’s annual report is out and includes a large-scale survey of 40 state and local consumer protection agencies from 20 states. The yearly survey seeks to shed light on some of the issues facing consumers.
In the top slots were auto dealers, construction work, and debt collection practices. Last year saw the same top three issues. Among the two fastest growing complaints were disputes with towing companies and landlord-tenant issues. New to the list were scams tied to mortgage assistance and door-to-door meat sales, according to the report. The agencies received some 350,000 complaints in 2012.
Issues around automobiles included misleading marketing, shoddy repairs, disputes over leasing and towing, and the age-old issue of buying a lemon. Homeowners also complained about home improvement and construction problems that involved poorly completed work and work that was either never started or never completed.
Credit and debit card users were unhappy over disputes with billing and fees, mortgage and lending fraud, abusive and illegal debt collection practices, and dubious credit repair services. Utility providers— cable, electric, gas, Internet, satellite, and telephone, companies—were the focus of an array of service and billing disputes. Retail sales issues; service providers, in general; door-to-door sales; landlord-tenant gripes, Internet sales, and household goods comprised the rest of the list.
In one case, a California consumer reported that her one-week-old car suffered from mechanical problems. In another, a Florida consumer paid more than $1,000 for repairs that caused her car to become inoperable, according to the report. In New Jersey, an awning company took a $1,300 deposit, signed a contract, and disappeared. Some foreclosure and loan modification scams in Florida bilked consumers out of thousands of dollars.
The complaints covered every possible product and consumer service. A Wisconsin investigation revealed that 6,500 unauthorized cell phone charges were applied to users who never signed up for the third-party services for which they were billed. Also, false and deceptive merchandise and issues with rebates, gift cards, and coupons, phony legal services, high-pressure door-to-door and telemarketing sales, unhealthy or unsafe housing and rent disputes, deliveries that were never made, and fake free trial offers, led to consumer aggravation and cost consumers time and money.
“Whether it’s an offer on the Internet or meat being sold door-to-door out of the back of a truck, consumers need to be careful in today’s marketplace,” said Amber Capoun, president of the North American Consumer Protection Investigators. Capoun’s firm assisted with the survey.
Hicken, Melanie. “Top 10 Consumer Complaints (from Consumer Federation of America’s annual report)“; CNN Money. 8/1/13.