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Consumers’ 11 Biggest Problems


If you’ve recently gotten stuck with an automobile lemon, encountered a shifty telemarketer or fought with your credit card issuer over a fee, you’re far from alone.

Those three problems fall into the categories consumers complained the most about in 2010, according to a new study of state complaint data from the Consumer Federation of America, the National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators and the North American Consumer Protection Investigators. (See the full list below.)

The tough economy has continued to color complaints. State consumer agencies continue to hear from more people already in desperate financial straits that have been drawn in by unscrupulous businesses, says Anna Huddleston-Aycock, president of the NACPI. “Fraud is an especially challenging problem because scammers often target U.S. consumers from foreign countries, making law enforcement difficult,” she says.

Consumers can avoid many of the common problems with a little up-front homework. Review a company’s reputation from raters like the Better Business Bureau and Angie’s List — even a Google search for their name and “complaints” will often turn up enough in a pinch. Get any promises in writing, and review any general policies the business has documented on its site. Pay with a credit card, too, which gives you the right to dispute a charge if there is a problem with that purchase.

Here are consumers’ top gripes from 2010:

1. Auto. Consumers reported misleading advertisements for new and used cars, lemons and other faulty repairs, and lease disputes. A new problem this year: Companies that bought a consumer’s car but either never paid off the liens or whose check bounced.

2. Credit and Debt. Recurring issues included disputes included billing practices and fees, mortgage-related fraud, predatory lending tactics credit repair and debt relief services, and illegal or abusive debt collection tactics. This year, agencies reported a spike in complaints stemming from major data breaches that left consumers worried about identity theft.

3. A tie between Home Improvement and Retail Sales. On repairs and construction, complaints focused on shoddy construction work and failure to start or complete the job. Retail problems included false advertising, defective merchandise, difficulty redeeming rebates and coupons, and problems with gift cards.

4. Utilities. Consumers reported both service problems and billing disputes with their various providers.

5. Services. Businesses misrepresented themselves, performed shoddy or no work, or failed to have required licenses

6. Internet Sales. Problems included misrepresented goods and failure to deliver online purchases. Daily deal sites sites have become part of the problem this year, with consumers griping about inadequate disclosures for expiration dates, among other limitations.

7. Household Goods. Consumers complained that businesses misrepresented products, didn’t deliver them, or — in the case of furniture and appliances — didn’t repair them properly.

8. Landlords. Landlords allegedly provided unhealthy or unsafe living conditions, failed to make repairs or provide promised amenities, and used illegal eviction tactics. Consumers also complained of disputes over security deposits and rent.

9. Fraud. Consumers complained about a litany of scams, notably bogus sweepstakes and lotteries and work-at-home schemes. A growing problem: the so-called “grandparent scam,” in which consumers receive a call or email supposedly from a friend or relative in crisis. They ask the victim to wire money to help.

10. Home Solicitations. Problems included do-not-call violations and misrepresented door-to-door and telemarketing offers.


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    • Eew I’d definitely talk to a laywer and take her to court if you feel this way. It doesn’t sound like she’s capable of the responsibility .AND I believe she gets a percentage from the estate in order to be power of attorney. If she’s using his fiances for her own benefit, she could be sued. Definitely do something about it and good luck. That sucks it is your Aunt but money makes people act funny your poor grandfather may be taken advantage of.

    • Interesting article and, in other times a sttegary like that might work. Unfortunately for the Dems, Obama has done too much damage to voter confidence at a rate that was hard to miss. Heck even the politically apathetic were jolted back to consciousness! Democrats running for re-election have to remember that, when voters reached out to them, they chose party over constituencies. That choice was made at their own peril. Incumbents are going to be beaten mercilessly this year in midterms — and not all of them will be Dems.

    • Home Improvement and Retail Sales tied as number three, so the Top 10 complaints were actually about 11 different categories. –Kelli B. Grant

    • The headline says eleven, but only ten listed. Did I miss something?

About Pay Dirt

  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to quentin.fottrell@dowjones.com or tweet @SMPayDirt.