WASHINGTON — Aggressive telemarketers were the fastest growing complaint for consumers in 2013, but car trouble still topped the list, according to a new survey.
Do-not-call violations and other telemarketing abuses were the fastest-growing complaints, according to the latest report from the annual survey of state and local consumer protection agencies conducted by the nonprofit Consumer Federation of America and the North American Consumer Protection Investigators. Some 40 agencies from 23 states responded to the survey about the complaints they received last year.
“Despite the national do-not-call registry, strict rules concerning robocalls, and other protections, unwanted and fraudulent phone calls are still plaguing American consumers,” said Susan Grant, Director of Consumer Protection at CFA.
One of the biggest challenges that the agencies faced was keeping up with the evolving marketplace, especially dealing with scammers targeting U.S. consumers from other countries. The technologies that are used to mask callers’ real identities and locations make telemarketing fraud and abuse particularly challenging for state and local consumer protection agencies to deal with, especially when the culprits are overseas
CFA and the NACPI surveyed general-purpose consumer protection agencies at the city, county and state level about the top, worst, and fastest-growing complaints in 2013. The survey also asked about new kinds of problems that consumers reported, the agencies’ biggest achievements and challenges, and new laws needed to better protect consumers.
Top 10 consumer complaints in 2013
- Auto: Misrepresentations in advertising or sales of new and used cars, lemons, faulty repairs, leasing and towing disputes
- Home Improvement/Construction: Shoddy work, failure to start or complete the job
- 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
- Retail Sales: False advertising and other deceptive practices, defective merchandise, problems with rebates, coupons, gift cards and gift certificates, failure to deliver
- Services: Misrepresentations, shoddy work, failure to have required licenses, failure to perform
- Utilities: Service problems or billing disputes with phone, cable, satellite, Internet, electric and gas service
- Landlord/Tenant: Unhealthy or unsafe conditions, failure to make repairs or provide promised amenities, deposit and rent disputes, illegal eviction tactics
- (tie) Home Solicitations: Misrepresentations or failure to deliver in door-to-door, telemarketing or mail solicitations, do-not-call violations and Internet Sales: misrepresentations or other deceptive practices, failure to deliver online purchases
- Health Products/Services: Misleading claims, unlicensed practitioners, failure to deliver
- Fraud: Bogus sweepstakes and lotteries, work-at-home schemes, grant offers, fake check scams, imposter scams and other common frauds
The top five fastest-growing complaints in 2013 were:
- Violations of do-not-call rights and other telemarketing abuses
- Home improvement and construction
- Used car sales
- Utility billing issues
- Internet sales
The top five worst complaints in 2013 were:
- Scams of all kinds against the elderly
- Home improvement and construction
- Business closings that left consumers in the lurch
- Phony sweepstakes and lotteries
- Landlord/tenant disputes
Agencies’ worst complaints could be based on the number of consumers involved, the dollar amounts, the particular vulnerability of the consumers, or just the outrageousness of the situations.