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Top 10 Customer Complaints Revealed, New Consumer Rip-Offs Emerge

Misrepresentation in the promotion and sale of automobiles remains the greatest source of customer strife while sweepstakes and work-at-home schemes have emerged as major pain points, three leading consumer protection agencies confirmed this week.

The Consumer Federation of America, National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators and the North American Consumer Protection Investigators jointly issued their annual consumer complaint survey, revealing the top ten complaints as well as new issues that emerged in 2010.

Based on reports from thirty-one consumer agencies in eighteen states, which received more than 252,000 complaints in 2010, automotives remains the greatest area of customer struggle.

Repeating their placement from last year, issued related to credit/debt and home improvement followed, with retail sales, utilities problems and services complaints also at the top of the list.

The only new addition to the top ten was "fraud," which covers "bogus sweepstakes and lotteries, work-at-home schemes and other schemes." The health products and services category is no longer a top ten source of complaints.

The report also recognized new areas of complaint that first reached the agencies in 2010. Among the debuts was a social service—group discount coupons—that garnered heat over misleading expiration dates.

Call Center IQ has listed the top ten complaint areas and "new" complaint areas below. Numbers in parentheses refer to the prior year’s ranking:


Top Ten Customer Complaint Categories:

1 (1) – Auto – Misrepresentations in advertising or sales of new and used cars, lemons, faulty repairs, leasing and towing disputes

2 (2) – Credit/Debt – Billing and fee disputes, mortgage-related fraud, credit repair, debt relief services, predatory lending, illegal or abusive debt collection tactics

3, tie (3) – Home Improvement/Construction – Shoddy work, failure to start or complete the job

3, tie (5) – Retail Sales – False advertising or other deceptive practices, defective merchandise, problems with rebates, coupons, gift cards and gift certificates, failure to deliver

4 (4) – Utilities – Service problems or disputes with phone, cable, satellite, Internet, electric and gas service

5 (6) – Services – Misrepresentations, shoddy work, failure to have required licenses, failure to perform

6 (7) – Internet Sales – Misrepresentations or other deceptive practices, failure to deliver online purchases

7 (8) – Household Goods – Misrepresentations, failure to deliver, faulty repairs in connection with furniture or appliances

8 (8) – Landlord/Tenant – Unhealthy or unsafe conditions, failure to make repairs or provide promised amenities, deposit and rent disputes, illegal eviction tactics

9 (NR) – Fraud - Bogus sweepstakes and lotteries, work-at-home schemes and other schemes

10 (9) – Home Solicitations – Misrepresentations or failure to deliver in door-to-door, telemarketing or mail solicitations, do-not-call violations

New Types of Complaints

*Inadequate disclosures of about expiration dates or other limitations on group discount coupons

*Medical billing problems in which consumers were caught between health service providers and insurance providers in disputes about whether claims were properly submitted or should be covered

*Companies that offered to buy consumers’ cars but never paid off the liens on the vehicles or whose checks to the consumers bounced

*"Recovery" services that falsely promise to retrieve money that consumers have lost to timeshare resale companies

*Problems with lack of documentation for contracts for wireless television services

*Billing disputes involving unauthorized debts to consumers’ bank accounts spanning many years

*The "grandparent scam," in which consumers receive calls or emails purporting to be from a friend or relative in some sort of emergency situation asking them to wire money to help

*Tax-related scams in which consumers receive official-looking correspondence offering help with property tax adjustments or other tax assistance for a fee, when customers may be able to get that help from the government for free