Telemarketing abuse was the fastest-growing category of complaints by consumers in 2013, according to an annual survey of state and local consumer protection agencies, released Wednesday by the Consumer Federation of America and the North American Consumer Protection Investigators.
Here are the top categories of complaints from consumers, according to the survey of 40 agencies in 23 states:
- 1. Autos. Whether it's deceptive sales tactics, lemons, repairs that go wrong or disputes over towing or leasing, no category generates more complaints.
- 2. Home improvement and construction: Lousy workmanship and failure to finish the work are typical complaints. So is taking a deposit and not doing any work at all.
- 3. Credit and debt. We all have bills, and not all companies are honest and fair in how they do business. Disputes over bills, fees, allegations of mortgage fraud and deceptive credit repair and debt relief services are among the issues that led consumers to complain. Shady or illegal debt collection also caused problems.
- 4. Retail sales. Not getting a rebate you submitted and ads that dupe you into thinking you're getting something that you're not joined complaints over coupons, gift cards and defective products.
- 5. Services. Problems with services such as yard work, computer repair and tax preparation include poor work and failure to do the work.
- 6. Utilities. Have you ever had a problem dealing with your provider of phone service, cable, Internet, gas or electric? So have plenty of other consumers.
- 7. Landlord and tenant issues. Living conditions, failure to fix things, not providing something that was promised and fights over money propelled this category.
- 8. (tie) Home solicitations. All those annoying phone calls, solicitations by mail and sketchy door-to-door sales fueled consumers' ire.
- 8. (tie) Internet sales. On top of the deceptions that consumers report, another big problem isn't getting products that were ordered.
- 9. Health products and services. Can you lose weight and tone up by wearing a different pair of sneakers? No, but you can lose money. Other deceptive claims and a failure to provide the service are among the complaints consumers had.
- 10. Fraud. Whether it's a call that tells you that you won the Jamaica lottery, can get a government grant or make big bucks working from home, scams of all flavors propelled this category into the top 10.
What can you do when you encounter one of these issues? Avoid unsolicited offers that seem too good to be true. Keep good records of your dealings with businesses. Reach out to state and federal agencies that are here to help you.