State, local and federal agencies received millions of consumer complaints last year, and again the top category of complaints is auto sales and repair, according to the Consumer Federation of America.
In 2021, state, local and federal agencies received millions of consumer complaints, and again, the top category of complaints is automobile sales and repairs, according to the Consumer Federation of America.
“These complaints tend to rise to the top just because this topic affects so many people,” said the federation’s Erin Witte.
Some complaints were about cars that cost thousands of dollars more than the advertised price. There have also been reports of agencies intervening in so-called “yo-yo financing,” in which buyers get the car before financing is finalized. Some buyers are then forced a few days later to renegotiate the agreement or to repossess the car.
Other problems involved dealerships giving buyers cold feet when expensive repairs occurred soon after the sale.
The Maryland Attorney General’s Office is one of nearly two dozen agencies whose data influenced the top 10 list. In one case, the state stepped in to help a consumer obtain temporary tags from a dealer who would not return the buyer’s calls.
The Fairfax County Cable and Consumer Services Department, which also participated, said it intervened when a newly purchased car needed a new transmission, but the dealership told the couple who bought it that he was responsible for much of the repair.
Complaints from landlord-tenants — including steep rent increases, evictions and landlords not returning owed security deposits — came second.
One such case was noted by the DC Attorney General’s Office, which intervened when students living on the campus of an unidentified college were denied their security deposit and charged additional fees. The college also threatened to call collection agencies for not giving 60 days notice that they were moving out at the end of their lease, even though they would have paid rent in full for the duration of their lease. .
Home improvement repairs and complaints from contractors were also common, with many reports of contractors taking money but not finishing the job.
“The consumer would pay a large down payment or even the full payment, in cash up front, for some repairs, and then the contractor would just not show up,” Witte said in a Monday press call.
Here are the top 10 categories of complete complaints:
- Automotive sales and repairs: Complaints regarding the sale of new and used automobiles (prices, advertisements, mechanical defects, etc.) as well as problems related to repairs.
- Owner-tenant: Complaints about rental housing conditions, disputes over security deposits and rent increases.
- Home Repairs and Contractors: Complaints about home improvement contractors or repairers, including quality and non-completion of work and licensure status.
- Retail purchase issues: Complaints regarding the purchase of goods (both on the Internet and in physical stores), such as goods arriving late, receipt of the wrong or defective product, and refund and exchange policies.
- Debt and consumer credit: Complaints about loan issues (including mortgages), banking, debt collection, credit reports and other financial services.
- Frauds and scams: Complaints about various scams (“charge pending” scams, fraudulent sweepstakes/contests, tax appeals, etc.), senior citizen fraud and identity theft.
- Utilities: Complaints about utility providers, including gas, electric, cable, telephone and internet providers.
- (TIE) Health and Wellbeing; automated calls and telemarketing: Health and wellness complaints centered on the quality of service from health care providers, billing practices, fitness and wellness centers. The robocalls and telemarketing complaints centered on robocalls to homes and consumer cellphones.
- Professional services: Complaints about services provided by licensed and unlicensed professionals, such as carpet cleaners, photographers, DJs, etc.
- Travel and leisure: Complaints about hotels, trip cancellations and refunds, complaints from moving and storage companies.
The survey found that many agencies reported difficulty processing each case quickly, due to understaffing and a work environment that includes more teleworking.
The agencies also reported that many cases stayed out of court and were resolved through consumer-business mediation. Others demanded enforcement action from state and local agencies.
The takeaway from the federation is that local consumer protection agencies are there to tackle these kinds of issues. At the same time, more governments need to do more to educate consumers about what to watch out for and how to get help.
See the list online.