Top Consumer Complaints Include Auto and Debt

In 2010, a consumer complaint survey was conducted by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), the National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators (NACAA), and the North America Consumer Protection Investigators (NACPI).  The study included 31 consumer agencies across 18 states. The top complaints were auto, credit and debt, home improvement and retail sales.

Fraud was on the top ten list for the first time, which is a little counter intuitive since identity theft has been the number 1 complaint to the Federal Trade Commission for 11 consecutive years.  This was due to consumer protection agencies and law enforcements’ use of social media such as Twitter to warn consumers about scams. Fraud is a problem because many scams originate from foreign countries, which makes enforcement difficult.  Some of the new complaints were medical billing issues, expiration dates on group discount coupons and identity theft from major data breaches.

The top ten consumer complaints:

  1. Auto -” Misrepresentation in sales or advertisements for new and used cars, plus faulty repairs, and disputes over leasing and towing costs”.
  2. Credit and Debt – “Billing and fee disputes, predatory lending and mortgage-related fraud, credit repair, debt relief services, and illegal or abusive debt collection tactics”.
  3. Home Improvement and Retail Sales (tied):  Home improvement complaints were “shoddy work, failure to start or complete the job”.  Retail sales complaints were “false advertising and other deceptive practices, defective merchandise, problems with rebates, coupons, gift cards and gift certificates, and failure to deliver”.
  4. Utility Services – “Billing disputes or issues with service for phone, cable, satellite, Internet, electric and gas”.
  5. Services – “”Shoddy work, or failure to perform or have a license”.
  6. Internet Sales – “Deceptive practices and failure to deliver online purchases”.
  7. Household Goods – “Failure to deliver or faulty repairs of appliances or furniture, plus misrepresentation”.
  8. Landlord and Tenant – “Unhealthy or unsafe conditions, failure to make repairs or provide promised amenities, deposit and rent disputes, and illegal eviction tactics”.
  9. Fraud – “Bogus sweepstakes and lotteries, work-at-home schemes, and other scams”.
  10. Home Solicitations – “Misrepresentations or failure to deliver in door-to-door, telemarketing or mail solicitations, and do-not-call violations”.

Beware of what you’re signing, check out company’s reputations before dealing with them, and don’t pay in full upfront for home repairs.  Hold a portion of payment until the work has been completed to your satisfaction.  And finally, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

John Ulzheimer is the President of Consumer Education at SmartCredit.com, the credit blogger for Mint.com, and a Contributor for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.  He is an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring and identity theft. Formerly of FICO, Equifax and Credit.com, John is the only recognized credit expert who actually comes from the credit industry.  Follow him on Twitter here.

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