Problems with home alarm sales tactics were flagged as an issue to watch in the latest report from the annual survey of state and local consumer agencies conducted by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA). Forty agencies from 23 states participated in the survey, which asked about the most common complaints, the fastest-growing complaints and the worst complaints received in 2017. In addition, the report identified new kinds of consumer problems, agencies’ greatest achievements and new laws enacted in the agencies’ jurisdictions last year to protect consumers.
Top Ten Complaints in 2017
According to CFA, the following are the complaints most frequently cited as the top problems reported to state and local consumer agencies last year. A new category, Communications, was created this year for complaints about telephone and internet services. Formerly, those complaints were included in Utilities.
- Auto: Misrepresentations in advertising or sales of new and used cars, lemons, faulty repairs, auto leasing, and towing disputes.
- Home Improvement/Construction: Shoddy work, failure to start or complete the job.
- Retail Sales: False advertising and other deceptive practices, defective merchandise, problems with rebates, coupons, gift cards and gift certificates, failure to deliver.
- Credit/Debt: Billing and fee disputes, mortgage modifications and mortgage-related fraud, credit repair, debt relief services, predatory lending, illegal or abusive debt collection tactics.
- Landlord/Tenant: Unhealthy or unsafe conditions, failure to make repairs or provide promised amenities, deposit and rent disputes, illegal eviction tactics.
- Services: Misrepresentations, shoddy work, failure to have required licenses, failure to perform.
- Communications: Misleading offers, installation issues, service problems, billing disputes with phone and internet services.
- Health Products/Services: Misleading claims, unlicensed practitioners, failure to deliver, medical billing issues.
- Household Goods: Misrepresentations, failure to deliver, defective merchandise, faulty repairs, in connection with furniture or appliances.
- (Tie) Home Solicitations: Misrepresentations, abusive sales practices, and failure to deliver in door-to-door, telemarketing or mail solicitations, do-not-call violations; Internet Sales: Misrepresentations or other deceptive practices, failure to deliver online purchases; Travel: Misrepresentations, failure to deliver, cancellation and billing disputes.
First-Hand “Real-World” Consumer Stories
These are some of the stories described in the annual Consumer Complaint Survey Report from CFA.
- A Hole Lot of Nothing: A Massachusetts couple who wanted their home renovated paid a contractor $68,000 and all they had to show for it was a hole in the ground.
- Parts Unknown: A Louisiana woman whose car was at a repair shop for over a year discovered that the owner was selling off parts of the vehicle, instead of getting the parts to fix it.
- Missing Money: An elderly Los Angeles man whose home was foreclosed on asked for help to retrieve the $271,000 he was owed from the sale of the property.
- An Unwittingly Helpful Car Buyer: An Ohio restaurant owner who speaks very little English accompanied an employee to an auto dealership to vouch for his income and ended up unwittingly co-signing the car loan.
- The Malufacturer: A Virginia company operating in Washington D.C. collected $284,000 through crowdfunding to produce athletic apparel, but after more than two years hadn’t delivered a stitch of the clothing it promised to supporters.
- Unwanted House Guests: A Florida woman, complaining about the squalid conditions of the house she was renting, provided photographs showing rats eating the groceries she had just purchased for her three young children.
- Sick Puppy: An Arkansas consumer who recently had brain surgery, purchased a service dog from a breeder without being informed it had serious health problems, including seizures, encephalitis and a soft spot on its skull.