Personal Finance

Top 10 consumer complaints in the US

Top 10 consumer complaints in the U.S.

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Have any complaints? You're not alone.

The total number of consumer complaints increased nearly 5 percent to 281,693 last year from 268,380 in 2013, according to a Consumer Federation of America survey released Wednesday. The number of complaints was determined by surveying 37 state and local consumer protection agencies.

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The study found identity theft as the fastest-growing complaint last year.

"It's not surprising that identity theft was the top fastest-growing complaint given the epidemic of data breaches around the country last year," the CFA said in the report. "Some agencies cited the use of consumers' stolen personal information to impersonate them in order to claim their tax refunds as a particularly fast-growing identity theft problem."

Here's are the 10 most common consumer complaints.

—By Fred Imbert
Posted 29 July 2015

10. Household goods

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Household goods complaints did not make the top 10 in 2013, but managed to crack the list in 2014. These types of gripes include misrepresentations and faulty repairs pertinent to furniture and home appliances.

"If the appliance you buy is defective, your rights are not limited by the store's normal return policy. If there is a manufacturer's warranty, the problem should be resolved according to its terms," the CFA said.

9. Fraud

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Fraud complaints moved up a notch in 2014. Agencies surveyed by the CFA said the the most common complaints included fake check scams, spurious sweepstakes and bogus grant offers.

The report said that, "if someone contacts you claiming that you're been awarded a grant, won a sweepstakes or lottery, or gotten a loan, and you hadn't applied or entered your name in the first place, it's a scam!"

8. (Tie) Health products/services, Internet sales

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Internet sales complaints held their position from 2013, but were accompanied by health products and services complaints, which rose one spot on the list. These complaints included failure to deliver online purchases, while health product and services gripes ranged from misleading product claims to unlicensed practitioners.

The CFA advised consumers to use a credit card when executing online purchases, as major credit card companies let consumers dispute charges if they do not receive their merchandise. Using a credit card can also protect consumers when paying for a specific health service or product.

7. Home solicitations

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Home solicitation complaints moved up a spot from 2013 to 2014, the CFA said. Most of these ranged from subscription scams to "do-not-call violations."

"It's hard to keep track of subscriptions. Make a list with the name of the publication, the date and amount you paid, and the expiration date, and update it when you renew," the report said.

6. Landlord/tenant

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These complaints rose one spot from 2013 to 2014, the CFA found. The gripes range from failure to provide promised amenities to unethical eviction tactics being used on tenants.

Landlords and tenants should ask their state or local consumer protection agency for assistance if they are unsure about what their obligations are.

5. Services

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Service complaints held steady at fifth year over year. These include protests over shoddy work and failure to have required licenses to provide a specific service.

4. (Tie) Retail sales, utilities

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Complaints arising from retail sales retained their spot within the list's top five, while utilities complaints leaped two spots year over year.

Some of the most common retail sales complaints included false advertising and defective merchandise, while utilities gripes included service problems or billing disputes, the report said.

"When you make a purchase, get a detailed receipt that shows what you bought and how much you paid, as well as any certificate or appraisal for the item so you can prove the claims that the business made," the CFA said regarding retail complaints, adding that consumers can check out how other retail complaints have been resolved here.

3. Credit/debt

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These complaints ranged from billing and fee disputes to predatory lending and abusive debt collection tactics, the report said.

"Payday loans are typically very expensive and can trap you in a never-ending cycle of debt. Be sure you understand how the loan works, how much it costs, and if that kind of loan is legal where you live," the report said. It also said consumers have the right to to tell debt collectors to stop contacting them.

2. Home improvement/construction

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Home improvement and construction complaints retained second place on the list, with one of the main disputes consisting of failure to start and complete a specific job.

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Consumers should get several estimates and references before hiring a contractor, the CFA report said. "If it's an emergency and you don't have time to do that, at least ask your state or local consumer agency if there are licensing or registration requirements that apply and check to confirm that the contractor has met them."

1. Auto

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The dubious honor of first place went to auto complaints, the CFA found, with disputes including misinterpretations of advertising sales (both in new and used cars) and faulty repair.

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Consumers can protect themselves by obtaining the history of a used car, thoroughly reading the contract and any financing agreement, the report said.

"Don't leave the dealer's lot with the car until everything is finalized and you have a copy of the paperwork in hand," the CFA said. "You may also want to consider paying the seller through an escrow service, which holds your money and releases it to the seller when the vehicle is delivered."