Consumer Agency Survey Reveals Top Consumer Complaints

August 4, 2008

A new survey conducted by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators (NACAA), and North American Consumer Protection Investigators (NACPI) identified the top ten consumer complaints in the nation for 2007.

The Governor’s Office of Consumer Affairs was one of 39 state and local consumer protection authorities who participated in the survey.  According to Joe Doyle, Administrator of the Governor’s Office of Consumer Affairs, the top complaints among Georgia consumers are automobile repair issues, used car sales and debt collection. According to the survey, these issues are among the nation’s top-ranked complaints as well.

Top Consumer Complaints for 2007:

1. Auto: Misrepresentations in advertising or sales of new and used cars, lemons, faulty repairs, leasing and towing disputes

2. Home Improvement/Construction: Shoddy work, failure to start or complete the job

3. Credit/Debt Collection: Billing and fee disputes, mortgage fraud, predatory lending, illegal or abusive collection tactics

4. Retail Sales: False advertising, defective merchandise, rebates and coupons, non-delivery

5. Utilities: Service problems, billing disputes with phone, cable, satellite, Internet, electric and gas services

6. Household Goods: Major appliances and furniture, problems with non-delivery, misrepresentations, faulty repairs

7. Internet Sales: Misrepresentations, non-delivery in connection with online purchases

8. Home Solicitations: Non-delivery, misrepresentations in door-to-door, telemarketing and mail solicitations, do-not-call violations

9. Services: Misrepresentations, shoddy work, failure to have required licenses

10. Landlord/Tenant: Unhealthy or unsafe conditions, failure to make repairs or provide promised amenities, deposit and rent disputes

The survey identified the top five fastest-growing complaint areas as:

  1. mortgage fraud and foreclosure scams
  2. home improvement
  3. Internet sales
  4. credit/ debt collection
  5. fake check scams

"State and local agencies save and recover billions for consumers every year, but it's difficult for them to keep up with the demand to stop marketplace abuses, resolve individual complaints and educate people to avoid rip-offs," said Susan Grant, director of consumer protection for the not-for-profit consumer advocacy group Consumer Federation of America. "In economic hard times, consumers are even more vulnerable to phony promises to help them financially or money-making schemes."

The report offered the following tips for consumers to protect themselves:

1. Check the track record. Before you buy, check the complaint records of unfamiliar companies. Consult your state or local consumer agency, the Better Business Bureau, and online complaint forums.

2. Hire licensed professionals. When you’re hiring professionals such as home improvement contractors, ask your state or local consumer protection agency if they must be licensed or registered and how you can check to confirm that they are.

3. Pay the safest way. Pay with a credit card when you buy goods or services that will be delivered later so you’ll be able to exercise your right to dispute the charges if you don’t get what you were promised.

4. Don’t pay in full upfront. Pay only a small deposit, if requested, for home improvement or other services, never the full amount upfront.

5. Recognize the danger signs of fraud. Watch out for any request to wire money; scare tactics or pressure to act immediately; promises that you can borrow, win or make money easily as long as you pay a fee in advance; or any situation in which someone wants to give you a check or money order and asks you to send money somewhere in return

6. Get all promises in writing. Verbal agreements are hard to prove. Carefully read contracts or finance agreements and make sure you understand them before you sign.

7. Get financial advice from legitimate sources. If you’re having trouble paying your bills, consult your local nonprofit consumer credit counseling service. Your state or local consumer agency may be able to help you find other legitimate sources of assistance.