Last year, consumers filed 1.1 million complaints with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) against North American businesses, a 10% increase over 2009.

"The complaints filed with BBB are not only a barometer of customer satisfaction, but the rise in complaints also shows that consumers are increasingly relying on BBB for assistance in resolving disputes with businesses," Stephen A. Cox, president and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus said in a statement.

The largest number of complaints (30,985) were directed at the cable and satellite TV industry, a 5% decrease over the previous year. Ranking second, the cell phone industry generated 27,293 complaints, a 30% reduction over 2009 numbers. In third place, new car auto dealers received 24,698 complaints, an 8% decrease over the previous year.While most categories saw a reduction in complaints from 2009, complaints against mortgage brokers were up 18%. Likewise, complaints against used car dealers increased 6% and auto repair and service complaints rose 4%.

Here are the top 10 BBB consumer complaint categories for 2010, followed by the number of complaints and the percentage of them that were resolved:
  1. Television -- Cable, CATV and satellite (30,985): 99%
  2. Cellular phone services and equipment (27,293): 92%
  3. Auto dealers -- new cars (24,698): 87%
  4. Banks (22,648): 99%
  5. Collection agencies (15,876): 80%
  6. Auto dealers -- used cars (14,520): 71%
  7. Auto repair and service (13,178): 66%
  8. Furniture -- retail (13,018): 79%
  9. Internet shopping (12,950): 81%
  10. Mortgage brokers (9,545): 81%
The BBB's annual report also showed that in 2010, 3 million consumers used BBB Business Reviews, a free online tool to help them research the reliability of companies. The reviews offer information on whether the business is a BBB member, gives them a letter-grade rating and provides information on the BBB complaint history of the firm. Consumers accessed the reviews more than 87 million times last year. The most popular industries researched were roofing contractors, general contractors and mortgage brokers.

"The services and tools that BBB supplies free of charge at bbb.org are now of more value than ever before to consumers," said Cox. In the current economic climate, consumers need to be more cautious on where and how they spend their money, he said. Checking out a company with the BBB is a good way to get information about it.

For a related story, see "Scams, Identity Theft Tops Among 1 Million Consumer Complaints to FTC"

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