Auto and credit collection issues top consumer complaints

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Auto repair woes top consumer complaints, says new survey. Image: Adam212/Flickr/CC BY

A coalition of private and governmental consumer advocacy groups released the 2010 Consumer Complaint Survey report last Wednesday. According to the report, Americans are the most disgruntled about auto purchase and repair issues, followed by credit billing and collection disputes. Fraud made a first-ever appearance in the annual survey’s top 10.

An annual survey

The Consumer Complaint Survey Report is an annual survey sponsored by the Consumer Federation of America, the  National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators and the North American Consumer Protection Investigators. The report, conducted between March and May 2011, surveyed 31 state, county and city consumer protection agencies located in 18 states. The agencies surveyed collected more than 252,000 complaints last year and obtained more than $208 million in restitution.

Credit and debt issues not a surprise

“Given the lingering recession, it is not surprising that credit and debt complaints remain second only to auto problems,” said North American Consumer Protection Investigators president, Anna Huddleston-Aycock. “Many of the complaint examples that agencies provided were related to the difficult financial situations that consumers and businesses faced last year.”

Auto purchases and repairs tops list

A constant over the report’s 13 years is that auto purchase and repair issues has always ranked number one in consumer complaints. This year was no exception. Americans feel the most frustration with “misrepresentations in advertising or sales of new and used cars, lemons, faulty repairs, leasing and towing disputes.”

Credit and debit issues come in second

This year the second ranking complaints dealt with credit/debit cards and debt collection issues: “billing and fee disputes, mortgage‐related fraud, credit repair, debt relief services, predatory lending, illegal or abusive debt collection tactics.”

Other issues in top 10

Rounding out the other top 10 complaints were home improvement, utilities, services, Internet sales, household goods, landlord/tenant disputes, fraud and home solicitations.

Fraud has not appeared in the top 10 previously, which hints that consumers are increasingly disgruntled with predatory practices and Internet scams.

Follows opening of CFPB

The report comes right on the heels of the opening of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in Washington, which will surely be looking at the survey as one resource in determining what future regulations may be needed in the financial services industry.

Agency suggestions for new laws

The agencies surveyed were asked what laws they thought should be enacted to protect consumers. The top two answers both had to do with regulating contractors to curtail home improvement fraud. Other issues of concern were abusive debt collection practices, assessing penalties for Internet fraud and “lemon laws” to protect used car buyers.

Economy remains sluggish

The current Consumer Complain Survey report indicates that Americans continue to struggle in a sluggish economy and are becoming increasingly aware and leery of financial predators that prey on people in need.


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