Consumers usually have reached the point of utter frustration when they take the time to file a consumer complaint with local or state consumer agencies. And every year, Consumer Federation of America (CFA) takes a survey of what complaints top the list.
“When the used car you just bought breaks down or your new roof leaks, who are you going to call? It’s your state or local consumer agency,” said Susan Grant, CFA Director of Consumer Protection and Privacy. Thirty-one agencies from 19 states participated in this year’s survey which asks about the most common, fastest-growing, and worst complaints agencies received in 2019.
Agencies were also asked about any new consumer problems, new laws enacted in their jurisdictions to protect consumers, and their greatest achievements in resolving complaints, improving their operations, and providing information to the public.
Since the survey was based on complaints and activities in 2019, it does not reflect the impact of COVID-19. And although the work of state and local consumer agencies has changed due to the pandemic, it has not stopped.
Agency personnel are working remotely and helping consumers through call forwarding and secure connections to computer systems. Fortunately, many agencies implemented new technology or upgraded their data systems before the pandemic struck. These changes have made complaint intake and case management easier.
Often consumers can provide all of their documentation and check the status of their complaints online. This means that consumers’ voices can still be heard and hopefully complaints can be resolved.
Here are what tops the list for consumer complaints in 2019 as surveyed by CFA.
- Auto: Misrepresentations in advertising or sales of new and used cars, deceptive financing practices, defective vehicles, faulty repairs, car leasing and rentals, towing disputes.
- Home Improvement/Construction: Shoddy work, failure to start or complete the job, failure to have required licensing or registration.
- Retail Sales: False advertising and other deceptive practices, defective merchandise, problems with rebates, coupons, gift cards and gift certificates, failure to deliver.
- Landlord/Tenant: Unhealthy or unsafe conditions, failure to make repairs or provide promised amenities, deposit and rent disputes, illegal eviction tactics.
- Credit/Debt: Billing and fee disputes, mortgage problems, credit repair and debt relief services, predatory lending, illegal or abusive debt collection tactics.
- Communications: Misleading offers, installation issues, service problems, billing disputes with telephone and internet services; Services: Misrepresentations, shoddy work, failure to have required licensing or registration, nonperformance.
- Health Products/Services: Misleading claims, unlicensed practitioners, failure to deliver, billing issues.
- Utilities: Complaints about gas, electric, water and cable billing and service.
- Fraud: Bogus sweepstakes and lotteries, work-at-home schemes, grant offers, fake check scams, imposter scams and other common frauds; Household Goods: Misrepresentations, failure to deliver, repairs issues in connection with furniture and major appliances.
- Internet Sales: Misrepresentations or other deceptive practices, failure to deliver online purchases.
Over my years as a consumer reporter I have found consumer agencies an excellent resource for people who are getting nowhere with a consumer complaint. Make sure you keep all of your notes and any paperwork from the company you have a complaint against to share with your consumer advocate.