When you’re using your hard-earned money to pay for goods and services, chances are you’re not in the mood for aggravation, nor in favor of a bait-and-switch routine.
And yet … US consumers encountered plenty of both last year.
The Consumer Federation of America on Wednesday put out its annual list of top complaints filed with city, county and state consumer agencies across the United States. All in, they handled nearly 600,000 complaints in 2022 and recovered more than $740 million for consumers through mediations, court enforcement actions and other means, the CFA said.
While these are the agencies where anyone can file a complaint, they can be especially helpful for people who don’t have the time or the means to resolve or litigate a dispute with a business on their own.
The top complaint in 2022 was …
The No. 1 consumer complaint in 2022 pertained to the sales and repairs of new and used autos. That category has held the top spot for seven years running, the CFA said.
When trying to buy, lease or repair their cars, SUVs and pickups, “consumers filed complaints about add-on products and services, bait and switch pricing, and mechanical condition issues,” the report noted.
One example cited pertained to a person leasing a Kia at a local dealership in Florida. “A consumer reported that they were charged a dealer fee of $995 when purchasing their lease. When they brought it up to a Kia salesman, they were told that it was ‘company policy,’” according to the report.
After the local county consumer affairs office reached out to the dealership to ask what the rationale was for the fee, the dealership responded by refunding the customer’s $995, the CFA said.
Home repairs and renovations take the No. 2 slot
Who doesn’t want to live in a new and improved home — or at least a well-functioning one?
Getting the work done right, however, can extract a pound of flesh, judging from the No. 2 consumer complaint from last year: home repairs and renovations.
“Many consumers complained of shoddy and incomplete home repair work performed by individuals without the proper licensure or expertise,” the CFA report said. “Consumers often pay for services in advance and have trouble obtaining a refund or corrections to the shoddy work when the relationship deteriorates.”
The CFA included as an example a case of a senior citizen who hired a contractor to make a small repair at their home. The contractor convinced the homeowner they needed a major remodel and proceeded to bill them $170,000 for work the homeowner said was poorly done and “grossly overcharged.” Enter the local consumer and business affairs department, which got the contractor to return $125,000 to the homeowner.
No. 3: Consumer debt and credit
In the No. 3 spot were complaints about consumer debt and credit.
Among the stories included in the CFA report is one of a Spanish-speaking credit card holder who had a promotional rate on their card. To avoid being hit with high interest when the promotional rate expired, they had to pay off their whole balance by a given due date. The customer attempted to do just that a couple of days before their promotional plan ended. But the credit card company’s computer system was down for a few days, after which the company charged the customer the interest they would have avoided had the company system been working.
When the card holder contacted the company to explain the situation, they were told they had to pay the interest, which amounted to nearly $2,000, the CFA report said.
The local consumer affairs office, however, reminded the credit card company that in fact “they themselves acknowledged their system error and were allowing consumers an extension if they had a payment due during the outage,” the report noted. End result: The customer got their money back with an apology.
For more stories like these and to learn more about the other leading consumer complaints in the CFA’s top 10 list, you can read the full report here.