The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) conducts an annual survey of city, county, and state consumer agencies across the country to ask about the complaints they received in the previous year.
Thirty-four agencies from across the country participated in this year’s survey, which was released on July 26th and provides a snapshot of the most common, fastest-growing, worst, and newest problems consumers reported in 2020. So without further ado, here are the top categories that consumers complained about last year:
Auto — Misrepresentations in advertising or sales of new and used cars, deceptive financing practices, defective vehicles, faulty repairs, car leasing and rentals, and towing disputes.
Home Improvement/Construction — Shoddy work, failure to start or complete the job, and failure to have required licensing or registration.
Landlord/Tenant — Unhealthy or unsafe conditions, failure to make repairs or provide promised amenities, deposit and rent disputes, and illegal eviction tactics.
Credit/Debit — Billing and fee disputes, mortgage problems, credit repair, and debt relief services, predatory lending, and illegal or abusive debt collection tactics.
Services — Misrepresentations, shoddy work, failure to have required licensing or registration, and nonperformance.
Utilities — Complaints about gas, electric, water, and cable billing and service.
Retail Sales — False advertising and other deceptive practices, defective merchandise, problems with rebates, coupons, gift cards, and gift certificates, and failure to deliver.
Travel — Misrepresentations about cost, amenities, or other aspects of travel packages, failure to provide promised services, and disputes about refunds.
Health Products/Services — Misleading claims, unlicensed practitioners, failure to deliver, and billing issues.
Internet Sales — Misrepresentations or other deceptive practices and failure to deliver online purchases.
Pandemic — Price gouging, refunds for canceled events and travel, financial issues, problems getting repairs and other services, “self-help” evictions, scams, and other complaints stemming from the pandemic.
Fraud — Bogus sweepstakes and lotteries, work-at-home schemes, grant offers, fake check scams, impostor scams, and other common frauds.
Household Goods — Misrepresentations, failure to deliver, and repair issues in connection with furniture and major appliances.
About the Survey
The various agencies that contributed to the survey handle consumer complaints on a wide range of topics, from auto sales to travel companies. Unlike most federal agencies, state and local consumer agencies usually mediate complaints informally. Many also have the power to enforce the law through administrative procedures, civil action, and/or criminal prosecution.
Why it Matters
Paying close attention to consumer complaints- those that are submitted to you directly and those regarding your industry as a whole- is a critical element of any compliance program. Monitoring complaints helps you identify issues in your marketing, sales, and fulfillment processes, enabling you to formulate solutions before they snowball into something truly unpleasant.
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