The Consumer Federation of America and the North American Consumer Protection investigators surveyed 40 state and local agencies about the types of complaints they'd received last year. Here are the top 10 complaint categories that most frequently appeared in the agencies' top 10 lists for 2012.
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. Utilities: Service problems or billing disputes with phone, cable, satellite, Internet, electric and gas service.
5. Retail sales: False advertising and other deceptive practices, defective merchandise, problems with rebates, coupons, gift cards and gift certificates, failure to deliver.
6. Services: Misrepresentations, shoddy work, failure to have required licenses, failure to perform.
7. Home solicitations: Misrepresentations or failure to deliver in door-to-door, telemarketing or mail solicitations, do-not-call violations.
8. Landlord/tenant: Unhealthy or unsafe conditions, failure to make repairs or provide promised amenities, deposit and rent disputes, illegal eviction tactics.
9. Internet sales: Misrepresentations or other deceptive practices, failure to deliver online purchases.
10. Household goods: Misrepresentations, failure to deliver, faulty repairs in connection with furniture or appliances.
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When asked about the fastest-growing complaints that agencies received last year, the top five were:
1. Towing disputes.
2. Landlord/tenant problems.
3. Abusive debt collection practices.
4. Telephone service billing issues.
5. Unlicensed contractors.
Other fast-growing complaints that were cited included free trial offers, imposter scams, fraud against seniors, door-to-door sales, online magazine sales, business opportunity/work-at-home schemes, deceptive practices targeting immigrants, ID theft, used car sales, bogus offers of loans, utility billing issues, billing disputes with dentists and optometrists, and scams in which payments are made via cash reload cards that are designed for loading money onto prepaid cards.