18 Companies That Consumers Absolutely Hate

Business Insider

Many major companies survive while routinely aggravating millions of customers. Some pay for advertising to hide their flaws. Others benefit from parity within their industry. Many of the worst succeed thanks to near-monopolies.

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The American Customer Service Index rates hundreds of companies based on satisfaction surveys. Our selection of the 18 worst includes four airlines and four cable companies.

"These are not terribly competitive industries, as the switching barriers for most of them are quite high," said David VanAmburg of ACSI. "In other industries, like the food or clothing sector, the competition is huge. They bend over backwards to make customers happy, because they have to."

Big companies tend to fare worse than smaller ones, VanAmburg says. "When a company grows, there is a tendency to lose customer focus."

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And what companies are bigger than ever? Banks, which claim three spots on this consumer blacklist.

AT&T Mobility

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Associated Press

Satisfaction Rating: 69/100

Common Complaints:

• Dropped calls -- especially in New York City, San Francisco, and other major metropolitan areas
• Limited coverage -- and that goes for AT&T (NYSE: T - News) and rival Verizon (NYSE: VZ - News)
• No choice for consumers who use iPhones

Analysis: AT&T has had problems ever since taking on the popular, data-heavy iPhone as an exclusive product. Recent efforts to improve service have paid off, however, increasing their satisfaction rating by 2 points this year.

Source: American Consumer Satisfaction Index

DIRECTV

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Associated Press

Satisfaction Rating: 68/100

Common Complaints:

• Unexpected extra fees, including up to $480 to cancel service
• Multi-year contracts
• Spotty reception for local TV and certain channels
• Aggressive practices by contractors and telemarketers

Analysis: DIRECTV (NasdaqGS: DTV - News) saw its satisfaction rating fall by 3 points, partly because the company raised its rates in February 2010, while its competitors did not change prices. According to David VanAmburg, Managing Director of the ACSI, this is an example of a company that has partly lost its ability for excellent customer service because it grew.

Source: American Consumer Satisfaction Index

Citibank

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Associated Press

Satisfaction Rating: 68/100

Common Complaints:

• High overdraft fees
• Other complaints associated with big banks

Analysis: Although Citigroup (NYSE: C - News) was tarnished by the government bailout in 2008, its satisfaction rating dropped by only one point, less than JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM - News) and Bank of America (NYSE: BAC - News). But all of these bigger-than-ever banks are aggravating customers. People are particularly upset that bailed out banks aren't lending. According to a correction of a New York Times article, Citibank has never charged for an overdraft fee on a one-time debit purchases.

Source: American Consumer Satisfaction Index and Daily Data Point

JPMorgan Chase

Satisfaction Rating: 68/100

Common Complaints:

• Absurdly high overdraft fees according to a Federal Court suit
• Other complaints associated with big banks

Analysis: JPMorgan Chase suffered from its rebranding, as the reorganization was slow and some branches took a long time to present the new brand. Customer satisfaction fell 5 points after JPMorgan Chase became larger, as the bank was perceived as more impersonal, according to ACSI.

Source: American Consumer Satisfaction Index

Bank of America

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Associated Press

Satisfaction Rating: 67/100

Common Complaints:

• High overdraft fees
• Other complaints associated with big banks

Analysis: Bank of America lost consumer satisfaction in the midst of the acquisition of Merrill Lynch (NYSE: MER - News). The satisfaction rating tumbled 6 points as the now enormous financial services company was burdened with cost-cutting and layoffs in 2009. Recently, new regulations forbid banks to let the customer automatically overdraft their accounts and let them pay high overdraft fees to the bank.

And congratulations to the only big bank not making our list: Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC - News).

Source: American Consumer Satisfaction Index

McDonald's

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Associated Press

Satisfaction Rating: 67/100

Common Complaints:

• Occasionally rude workers that cost millions in lost sales yearly
• Unhealthy food -- although McDonald's (NYSE: MCD - News) has improved menus and products since '06
• Toys that lure kids to unhealthy food
• Low quality control at some franchises

Analysis: McDonald's was one of few fast food companies to lose points last year, falling 3 points to claim the industry's worst score. This doesn't match up with McDonald's rising sales, however, which have benefited from the bad economy. The burger company is still up 5 points from '06 following the introduction of healthier food.

Source: American Consumer Satisfaction Index

Cox Communications

Satisfaction Rating: 67/100

Common Complaints:

• Usage caps were phased in last February, limiting most customers to 2 gigabytes per day
• Bandwidth restrictions for activities like bit-torrents

Analysis: Cox improved its satisfaction rating by 1 point last year, maintaining its lead on Time Warner (NYSE: TWX - News), Comcast (NasdaqGS: CMCSA - News), and Charter. Cox has actually been touted as a success story compared to other cable companies. That said, consumers dislike all of these companies and tend to prefer satellite.

Source: American Consumer Satisfaction Index

Wellpoint

Satisfaction Rating: 67/100

Common Complaints:

• Poor access "critical medication", according to a CMS complaint in 2009
• Proposed rate increases of up to 39%, drawing censure from the Obama administration
• Rescissions of coverage that spurred to Health Care Reform, according to American Medical News

Analysis: Wellpoint (NYSE: WLP - News) shows a satisfaction rating lower than the industry average, declining one point since last year. The insurance company was blasted by Obama for planning a 25% rate increase, which was later revised to 14%.

Uncertainty that the healthcare market faces as the reform lies ahead doesn't help to reassure customers. "It's tricky, because there is so much passion about healthcare reform on both sides," said David VanAmburg.

Source: Reuters and American Consumer Satisfaction Index

Con Edison

Satisfaction Rating: 66/100

Common Complaints:

• Occasional slow service
• Rate increases -- adding around $10 per customer in the next three years

Analysis: Consolidated Edison (NYSE: ED - News) scores the worst in the industry. Although there are better companies out there, utilities are generally protected by regional monopolies.

Source: American Consumer Satisfaction Index

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