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The Top 10 Consumer Complaints of 2013

Christine DiGangi

A dissatisfied customer typically is not a quiet one: Venting to friends, launching a social media assault on the offending service provider and exchanging tense words with customer service representatives are among Americans’ favorite ways of dealing with bad experiences. You can also reach out to agencies dedicated to resolving consumer issues, and because of those complaints, the Consumer Federation of America has a good idea of what bothers people most.

Today, with the North American Consumer Protection Investigators, the CFA released its most recent edition of the top consumer complaints. The rankings are based on 268,380 complaints received in 2013 by 40 agencies in 23 states that responded to the national organizations’ survey. The top issues remained the same as they were in 2012: issues with automobiles and associated services; home improvement and construction; and consumer credit and debt.

Consumers’ Biggest Complaints

In their report, CFA and NACPI noted mostly the same local agencies responded to this and last year’s survey, but some did not, and a few new ones reported 2013 complaints. As a result, the rankings are only a snapshot of top complaints to participating agencies, and shifts in rankings from previous years aren’t necessarily indicative of an increase or decrease in problems within certain industries.

Here are the most common complaints among the thousands included in the report:

10. Fraud
2012 ranking: not in top 10
Includes fake sweepstakes and lotteries, work-at-home schemes, grant offers, fake check scams, impostor scams

9. Health Products & Services
2012 ranking: not in top 10
Includes misleading claims, unlicensed practitioners and failure to deliver services

8. (tie) Home Solicitations
2012 ranking: 7
Includes do-not-call violations and misrepresentation or failure to deliver products solicited by phone, mail or door-to-door sellers

Internet Sales
2012 ranking: 9
Includes deceptive marketing, product misrepresentation and failure to deliver products

7. Landlord & Tenant
2012 ranking: 8
Includes rent disputes, illegal eviction tactics, failure to provide promised services and unhealthy or unsafe living conditions

6. Utilities
2012 ranking: 4
Includes service problems and billing disputes with phone, cable, satellite, Internet, electric and gas services

5. Services
2012 ranking: 6
Includes lack of proper licensing, failure to deliver, misrepresentation and poor work

4. Retail sales
2012 ranking: 5
Includes deceptive marketing, failure to deliver products, defective merchandise and issues with coupons, rebates and gift cards

3. Credit & Debt
2012 ranking: 3
Includes predatory lending, deceptive marketing, billing and fee disputes, credit repair, debt relief, mortgage modification and illegal or abusive debt collection tactics

2. Home Improvement & Construction
2012 ranking: 2
Includes “shoddy work” and failure to start or complete projects

1. Auto
2012 ranking: 1
Includes deceptive marketing in sales of new and used cars, leasing and towing disputes, lemons and faulty repairs

Unleashing a flood of rage on social media platforms might get you somewhere, but working with a consumer advocate may help, too, especially with issues involving large sums of money, your health and your safety. Of the 40 reporting local agencies, 35 provided figures on issue resolution: They saved or recovered more than $139 million for consumers in 2013 through mediation and enforcement actions, the report said.

The top three complaints make sense, considering how consumer activity in those industries often involve a lot of money. That’s why they’ve consistently been top complaints, CFA and NACPI concluded. Losing money to debt relief scams, useless repairs and faulty home or car products can put consumers in dire financial circumstances that may have serious consequences for their well being, as well as their credit standings.

“Credit is always at the top of the list when it comes to consumer complaints and scams,” said Gerri Detweiler, Credit.com’s director of consumer education. “Dealing with credit problems can be frustrating, and consumers don’t always know their rights. But if they do take the time to look at their options they may find there are consumer protection laws and resources that can help.”

Consumers seeking help with their credit or debt should regularly monitor their credit throughout the process and maintain consistent communication with any third parties helping them navigate the industry. It’s a good habit to request your free annual credit reports, but it’s especially helpful to do if you’re going through credit or debt issues. You can also learn a lot by following changes to your credit scores. You can get two free scores through Credit.com, in addition to credit tips tailored to your needs.

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