What gets America’s goat? How about a payday loan offer that is actually just a line of credit at an online shopping mall; a sweepstakes scam that targets the elderly, or added charges from your dentist just for disputing your last bill.
These are a just a few of the complaints consumers filed last year. A recent survey of the nation’s complaints by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and the North American Consumer Protection Investigators (NACPI) found that last year 40 consumer protection agencies across the country received over 360,000 grievances.
All those gripes weren’t for nothing. Complaint mediation, administrative procedures, and other enforcement actions saved Americans nearly $98 million, according to the 2012 consumer complaint survey report released July 31, 2013.
A few trends stand out from years past. Growing complaints that were cited include free trial offers, imposter scams, fraud against seniors, door-to-door sales (a notable case involved meat sold from the back of a truck), online magazine sales, work-at-home schemes, deceptive practices targeting immigrants, identity theft, used car sales, bogus loan offers, and various billing disputes.
Fraud and misrepresentation are common themes among complaints. While hucksters and swindlers have been with us for centuries, NACPI President Amber Capoun said that, from what she’s seen, scams have only grown more plentiful and more devious.
“I think a lot of that has to do with the economy, and with the way times are, consumers are more vulnerable,” she said.
Below are American consumer’s top 10 complaint categories:
Once again car problems top the list. “Auto is the most frustrating category because it’s an expensive item, and consumers rely on it,” said Capoun. Consumers found misrepresentations in advertised sales for both new and used cars, faulty repairs, and the special frustration that comes with buying a lemon. Towing disputes were a significant trend in 2012.
2. Home Improvement/Construction:
Up last year from the No. 3 spot, more consumers found fault with a contractor who either did shoddy work, or failed to either start or complete a job.
Billing and fee disputes, mortgage modifications and mortgage-related fraud, credit repair, debt relief services, and predatory lending. A notable trend for 2012: illegal or abusive debt collection tactics.
Service problems or billing disputes with phone, cable, satellite, Internet, electric, and gas service. Complaints about wireless services are growing fast in some states.
5. Retail Sales:
False advertising and other deceptive practices, defective merchandise, problems with rebates, coupons, gift cards and gift certificates, and failure to deliver goods.
Inferior work, and unlicensed contractors.
7. Home Solicitations:
Failure to deliver in door-to-door, telemarketing, or mail solicitations, and do-not-call list violations.
A growing trend for 2012. It includes tenants forced to live in unhealthy or unsafe conditions, landlords who fail to make repairs or provide promised amenities, deposit and rent disputes, and illegal eviction tactics.
9. Internet Sales:
Companies or individuals who fail to deliver online purchases, as well as various deceptions unique to the Internet.
10. Household Goods:
Failure to deliver a product or faulty repairs in connection with furniture or appliances.