— -- Complaints about pesky telemarketers continue to tick off consumers, making it the fastest-growing gripe of 2013, according to consumer protection offices around the country.
The “Top 10 Consumer Complaints” list, annually compiled by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and the North American Consumer Protection Investigators (NACPI), reveals consumers are fed up with everything from being sold a lemon of a used car to dealing with cable bills to out-and-out fraud.
“The stories from agencies’ files illustrate the wide range of problems that consumers encounter, from faulty appliances to false advertising, high-pressure door-to-door sales to sweetheart swindles,” said Amber Capoun, president of NACPI, who is also a legal assistant in the Office of the State Banking Commission in Kansas.
Consumer Federation is an association of nearly 300 non-profit consumer groups. NACPI is an association of federal, state and local government consumer protection investigators. The groups surveyed agencies to find out what issues consumers grapple with most, as well as what challenges consumer protection groups face today when trying to resolve them.
The top grievance belongs to complaints about cars, specifically misrepresentations dealing with buying a new or used one. Bad repairs and leasing and towing disputes are also included.
According to the survey, complaints about telemarketing abuses swelled in 2013, specifically regarding violations of the federal law known as the TCPA, or Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The law allows consumers to tell a telemarketer not to contact them. It also prohibits a company from “robo-dialing” a consumers’ cell phone without his consent -- a complaint highlighted this week on “World News With Diane Sawyer” and "Nightline".
“Despite the national do-not-call registry, strict rules concerning robo-calls, and other protections, unwanted and fraudulent phone calls are still plaguing American consumers,” said Susan Grant, Director of Consumer Protection at CFA.
The groups say scams against the elderly continue to persist as well, earning top billing as “worst” complaint of the year, based on the number of victims and the dollar amount lost. Home improvement and construction complaints, businesses that go under, sweepstakes and lottery scams and landlord/tenant disputes round out what CFA and NACPI call the “worst complaints in 2013.”
The ABC News Fixer, Stephanie Zimmermann, says these types of complaints regularly show up in her online mailbag, where viewers send in their gripes about everything from mortgage rescue schemes to shoddy home repairs.
“Consumers get frustrated when they feel they’ve been treated unfairly,” says Zimmermann, who writes a consumer column and has recovered more than a quarter-million dollars for ABC News viewers for problems big and small. “We try to not only fix individual consumers’ problems but also give other viewers information so they can avoid falling into the same trap.”
Check out the full consumer complaint list below and if you have your own consumer problem, CLICK HERE to mail it in to The ABC News Fixer. You may also get help by contacting one of these federal, state or local agencies.
Top 10 Complaints in 2013
1. Auto: Misrepresentations in advertising or sales of new and used cars, lemons, faulty repairs, leasing and towing disputes
2. Home Improvement/Construction: Shoddy work, failure to start or complete the job
3. 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
4. Retail Sales: False advertising and other deceptive practices, defective merchandise, problems with rebates, coupons, gift cards and gift certificates, failure to deliver
5. Services: Misrepresentations, shoddy work, failure to have required licenses, failure to perform
6. Utilities: Service problems or billing disputes with phone, cable, satellite, Internet, electric and gas service
7. Landlord/Tenant: Unhealthy or unsafe conditions, failure to make repairs or provide promised amenities, deposit and rent disputes, illegal eviction tactics
8. (tie) Home Solicitations: Misrepresentations or failure to deliver in door-to-door, telemarketing or mail solicitations, do-not-call violations
8. (tie) Internet Sales: misrepresentations or other deceptive practices, failure to deliver online purchases
9. Health Products/Services: Misleading claims, unlicensed practitioners, failure to deliver
10. Fraud: Bogus sweepstakes and lotteries, work-at-home schemes, grant offers, fake check scams, imposter scams and other common frauds
Top 5 Fastest-Growing Complaints in 2013
1. Violations of do-not-call rights and other telemarketing abuses
2. Home improvement and construction
3. Used car sales
4. Utility billing issues
5. Internet sales
Top 5 Worst Complaints in 2013
1. Scams of all kinds against the elderly
2. Home improvement and construction
3. Business closings that left consumers in the lurch
4. Phony sweepstakes and lotteries
5. Landlord/tenant disputes
The full report is available HERE (PDF).