This week, the Consumer Federation of America released the top 10 consumer complaints, a report it releases annually. In 2011, there were close to 290,000 complaints received by the agency and another 38 agencies supplied their own consumer complaints.
Number one on the list was automobiles. Everything from being sold “lemons” to leasing problems and towing disputes were included. False advertisements were also included in this classification.
Coming in a close second was credit cards and debit cards. In fact, complaints regarding credit card companies and banks have historically been in the top two in many lists. Complaints about credit card billing and fees, along with mortgage-related fraud, predatory lending and abusive debt collection tactics are among the specifics.
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, billing disputes are the most common type of credit card complaints. Some consumers find the process of disputing credit card statements confusing and frustrating. Consumers report they’re unaware that many companies don’t automatically stop a credit card transaction even after the cardholder returns an item. The assumption is that if an item is returned, it kicks a reversal on a credit card charge into play – but that’s not always the case.
Other complaints include confusion over annual percentage rates and an unwilling credit card company to explain them. Identity theft, fraud and embezzlement are also common complaints filed by consumers not only to CFPB, but the Consumer Federation of America as well. Nearly 85% of the reports filed to CFPB since its inception were forwarded to the credit card companies for their side of the story while the remainder were referred to other agencies.
The CFPB also notes the most common type of mortgage complaint – which isn’t specifically listed in the top ten (although real estate and services are) is about problems consumers have when they are unable to pay. These might include issues related to loan modifications, collections or foreclosure. One example provided includes confusion by consumers regarding the process and requirements for obtaining loan modifications and refinancing, and more specifically, document submission timeframes and payment trial periods. Other specifics are allocation of payments treatment of income in eligibility calculations and credit bureau reporting during the evaluation period. The bureau also notes common complaints such as mortgage payments, loan servicing or escrow accounts.
Number three on the list was home improvement and construction companies. These complaints generally included stories of companies that refused to complete jobs or who did sub par repairs. One example included a teacher in Florida who paid a contractor nearly $20,000 for an addition to her home that was never built.
Number four involves retail sales, including false advertising, defective merchandise, rebate failures and gift cards. Specifically, the CFA says a “swell of complaints” against companies that refused to honor gift cards.
The number five slot is filled by utility companies. These complaints included billing disputes associated with phone, cable, internet and satellite companies. Specifically, these complaints were more about additional services tacked on to a contract that a consumer either didn’t want or wasn’t aware would result in an additional fee.
Number six has to do with unlicensed providers and misrepresentation of what they would provide a consumer. Number seven is landlord/ tenant complaints such as failure to fix problems at a rental property.
Numbers eight through ten, respectively, are services by complaints, fraud, real estate and household goods/services.
Any of these sound familiar? You can file a complaint at either agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at cfpb.gov or the Consumer Federation of America at consumerfed.org