False advertising of new and used cars, shoddy home improvement work, and deceptive retail sales tactics lead the towering list of complaints that consumers submitted last year.
The annual Consumer Federation of America (CFA) report looks at about 900,000 complaints collected by agencies in 23 states this year and identifies the most common and fastest-growing consumer complaints.
Autos and home improvement and construction jobs placed high on the list because “when there are problems with car sales, repairs, home improvement, or construction — they don’t just affect consumers financially,” Susan Grant, director of consumer protection and privacy at the Consumer Federation of America, told Yahoo Finance. “They also affect them personally.”
The total amount that the agencies recovered and saved for consumers last year through mediation, lawsuits, and other actions came to more than $2 billion.
Autos topped the list because “these transactions often involve significant amounts of money, but financial loss is not the only issue,” the report stated.
Complaints revolved around misrepresentations in the advertising of sales of new and used cars, lemons, faulty repairs, auto leasing and towing disputes.
Grant added that one other reason for autos topping the list was because “they’re really expensive transactions — so if there’s a problem, consumers are more likely to complain if they’re not able to resolve it themselves.”
2. Home improvement and construction
The CFA ranked home improvement and construction as the worst complaint in 2017 because of “the dollar amount involved, the impact on vulnerable consumers, or the sheer outrageousness of the situation,” according to the report.
“Every year in the survey, there are examples with people left without a roof — for one reason or another, the work has left their homes uninhabitable,” said Grant.
“Those are serious problems. Those are the kinds of things that consumers are going to take the trouble to complain about.”
3. Retail sales
Complaints in this category revolved around false advertising, deceptive practices, defective merchandise, problems with rebates, coupons, gift cards and gift certificates, and a failure to deliver.
4. Credit and debt
People complained about billing and fee disputes, mortgage modifications and mortgage-related fraud, credit repair, debt relief services, predatory lending, and illegal or abusive debt collection tactics.
5. Landlord and tenant issues
The main complaints were about unhealthy or unsafe conditions, failure to make repairs or provide promised amenities, deposit and rent disputes, and illegal eviction tactics.
These included misrepresentations, shoddy work, failure to have required licenses, and a failure to perform.
A new category created this year for complaints about telephone and internet services. These revolved around misleading offers, installation issues, service problems, and billing disputes with phone and internet services.
8. Health products and services
Misleading claims were again cited here as the top complaint, as well as unlicensed practitioners, failure to deliver and medical billing issues.
9. Household goods
This category included misrepresentations, failure to deliver, defective merchandise, and faulty repairs in connection with furniture or appliances.
10. Home solicitations, internet sales, and travel
There was a tie for last-place between these 3 categories. The complaints ranged from misrepresentation to abusive sales practices to billing disputes with travel companies.
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