Consumer Complaints

Nation’s Top Ten Consumer Complaints

From Auto Sales and Caller ID Spoofing to Landlord-Tenant Complaints and Home Improvement Contractor Issues, America’s State and Local Consumer Agencies Are on the Beat

Washington, D.C. – Auto sales and repairs are the number one category of complaints made to local and state consumer agencies in 2021, according to an annual survey conducted by Consumer Federation of America (CFA).

“For the sixth year in a row, the number one consumer complaint to agencies involves deceptive conduct in the sale of new and used cars as well as complaints about auto repair shops,” said Erin Witte, Director of Consumer Protection. “It is clear that auto sales and repairs are a longstanding problem and that consumers rely heavily on these agencies for assistance when they have suffered harm.”

Many agencies also reported an increase in landlord-tenant complaints in 2021, the year during which the federal eviction moratorium ended, and states and localities decided whether to enact extended tenant protections.

Twenty-three agencies from fifteen states responded to a survey from CFA asking for their top ten complaint categories, the worst and most common COVID-related complaints and their greatest achievements for the year, and agencies also provided examples of complaint narratives from consumers. Collectively, these agencies handled over 208,000 complaints, secured over $119 million in monetary relief and provided unique non-monetary relief and assistance to consumers across the country.

The Top Ten complaint categories made to agencies in 2021 are:

  • Auto Sales & Repair
  • Landlord Tenant
  • Home Improvement Repairs and Contractors
  • Retail Purchase Issues
  • Consumer Debt & Credit
  • Frauds and Scams
  • Utilities
  • (TIE) Healthcare/Wellness & Robocalls/Telemarketing
  • Professional Services
  • Travel & Recreation

“Each year, we are delighted to work with the dedicated public servants at each participating agency and learn about their efforts,” Witte said. “Their responses give us insight about what is happening in the marketplace and which strategies have been particularly successful.”

The Report highlights the agencies’ achievements in the year 2021, including enforcement actions by the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office against gun manufacturers and sellers for deceptively selling “ghost gun kits” without disclosing legal requirements or prohibitions (p. 35), and by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office against an internet provider for excessively charging consumers for internet speeds it knew could not be reached (p. 20).

Agencies also successfully resolved large-scale matters, including the Virginia Attorney General’s Office settlement with ticket reseller “Tickets On Sale,” resulting in over $180,000 in restitution for failing to honor its “100% buyer guarantee” or refund consumers for cancelled events (p. 34). The Maryland Attorney General’s Office also successfully mediated with a major state university that refused to let students back out of their off-campus housing leases after the university made most classes remote. Through mediation, the Attorney General obtained a reduced fee for the tenant students (p. 28).

Agencies also navigated administrative changes during a time when complaints have been at an all-time high. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has managed its consumer complaints despite its staff members handling four times their normal caseload (p. 37). Similarly, the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office successfully implemented a new internal complaint system and an updated user-friendly consumer complaint form (p. 42). Its complaints nearly doubled in the second half of this survey period after these procedures were implemented (p. 33).