Car buyers beware.
In a recent survey of the top challenges facing consumers last year, auto sales rode to the top of the list of complaints.
In the latest complaint survey conducted by the Consumer Federation of America [CFA], the National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators [NACAA], and the North American Consumer Protection Investigators [NACPI], auto-related complaints were cited as the top issue for consumers and consumer protection agencies for the second year in a row.
Auto-related complaints encompass misrepresentations in advertising or sales of new and used cars, lemons, faulty repairs, leasing and towing disputes, according to a release from the consumer agencies.
Credit and debt complaints, including predatory lending and abusive collection methods, were the second most frequent complaint, according to the survey, which was conducted by 31 consumer agencies in 18 states. Unsatisfactory home improvement or construction work and deceptive or problematic sales practices in the retail industry were tied for the third most common complaints.
One issue that made its debut in the 2010 top 10 was fraud. Deception such as bogus sweepstakes and lotteries, work-at-home schemes and other scams was the ninth-most common consumer complaint.
Fraud is an especially challenging problem because scammers often target U.S. consumers from foreign countries, making law enforcement difficult, said Anna Huddleston-Aycock, a Justice Analyst with the Pinellas County Department of Justice and Consumer Services in Florida and President of NACPI, in a statement.
Other complaints in the top 10 include disputes with utilities, poorly-performed or inadequate delivery of services, deceptive practices related to Internet sales, issues in connection with household goods, landlord and tenant disputes, and problems with home solicitations.
New types of consumer complaints that surfaced this year include issues related to group discount coupons, medical billing problems, companies that failed to pay after offering to buy a consumers car, and phony recovery services that promise to recover funds lost to timeshare resale companies, among others. The survey also cited major data breaches as having caused a barrage of complaints from consumers concerned about identity theft.
Suggested action that would improve consumer protection laws included stronger laws to end abusive practices in debt collection and tougher penalties for landlords who knowingly rent property that is about to be foreclosed upon. The survey said consumers would also like to see more regulations regarding Internet cafes used for online gambling and more used-car lemon laws.