Washington, D.C. – Home improvement contracting, automobile sales and leasing, and telecommunications scams top the 2003-2004 list of consumer complaints released today by the National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators (NACAA) and Consumer Federation of America (CFA) in their 13th annual consumer complaint survey.
In regard to the Internet, online auctions are the leading cause of complaints, followed by merchandise ordered via the Internet. Internet service providers generated complaints, as did scam “Nigerian letters” and other thinly disguised ruses to gain access to consumers’ bank accounts. Business opportunities and other “get-rich-quick” schemes round out the top five Internet related complaints.
In addition, complaints filed by consumers with state and local consumer protection agencies revealed serious consumer grievances with auto repairs, credit and credit repair, and telephone, cell phone and cable companies. Rounding out the top ten most frequent causes of complaints were billing and debt collection, identity theft and deceptive practices, Internet and online purchases, big-ticket household goods, and telemarketing complaints. “It’s an uphill battle for consumers,” said Steve Hannan, President of NACAA and Administrator for Howard County (MD) Consumer Affairs. “Not only do they have to worry about new technology complaints such as phishing and identity theft, but they also have to contend with problems that have been around for years, such as home repair contracting and automotive agreements.
“Consumer protection agencies are the first line of defense against fraud and deception,” stated Jean Ann Fox, CFA’s Director of Consumer Protection. Fox encouraged consumers to voice their concerns with their local and state consumer protection agencies so that the public and those who make decisions affecting consumer protection are better informed. For a list of consumer protection offices, visit www.consumeraction.gov/state.shtml.
The NACAA/CFA report includes examples of worst scams and big cases, complaints from targeted vulnerable consumers, and examples of complaints caused by natural disasters and emergencies. Surveyed agencies listed new and improved consumer protections needed to prevent abuses that lead to complaints as well as enhanced enforcement powers and more resources needed to strengthen agencies’ ability to protect consumers.
The consumer agencies sampled in this survey handled almost 450,000 individual complaints in 2003/2004, and were able to successfully return to consumers nearly $90 million during that reporting year. The complete NACAA/CFA report is available online at www.consumerfed.org/pdfs/NACAAComplaintreport.pdf and at www.nacaa.net.
Elizabeth Owen, NACAA, 615-371-6125
Jean Ann Fox, CFA, 202-387-6121
NACAA is a membership organization of consumer protection agencies at all levels of government. This survey report is based on NACAA members’ responses to questions about their 2003-2004 complaint records.
CFA is a non-profit association of 300 consumer groups, with a combined membership of more than 50 million people. CFA was founded in 1968 to advance the consumers’ interest through advocacy and education.