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10 things consumers complain about the most
What irks people most? New data show that consumers complain most about having to deal with cars — whether false sales ads or repairs, according to the Consumer Federation of America and the North American Consumer Protection Investigators.
The groups analyzed more than 250,000 complaints to 40 agencies across 23 states last year, finding that consumers are peeved about their auto experiences but also consider home improvement a nightmare, with issues ranging from roofing rip-offs to new home defects.
Here are the top 10 consumer complaints, and some MarketWatch tips on how to avoid having to make them.
1. Auto: Misrepresentations in advertising or sales of new and used cars, lemons, faulty repairs, leasing and towing disputes
Here’s the typical car repair saga: You go in for a simple oil change or tire replacement and they spring surprise repairs on you, claiming that your car is a death trap without those extra fixes — and a bill to match. Some ways to avoid getting cheated by car mechanics: Take your owner’s manual out of the glove compartment and actually read it. It sounds obvious, but the manual is a guide as to what maintenance your car actually needs, and it helps to know what you’re talking about when facing a mechanic who is peddling more repairs.
2. Home improvement/construction: Shoddy work, failure to start or complete the job
Americans shell out $275 billion a year on home improvement work - patching roofs, repairing plumbing, remodeling and more, according to a Harvard University survey. And in that process, they’re scammed out of at least $17 billion, according to some estimates. Projects like deck improvements and basement remodeling offer solid returns on the investment, if you’re taking on the challenge of home improvement. Home Depot and Lowe’s account for 80% of the home improvement industry’s $153.8 billion annual revenue, estimates show, but bigger isn’t always better. Here are 10 things you should know before embarking on a project.
3. Credit/debt: Billing and fee disputes, mortgage modifications and mortgage-related fraud, credit repair, debt relief services, predatory lending, illegal or abusive debt collection tactics
Debt collectors sometimes say anything to get you to pay, but it’s even worse when the debt’s not yours and your credit report needs a correction. To fix an error on your credit report, file a dispute directly with the credit bureau.
If the debt is yours, be wary of services that offer to help you pay it down. Here’s how one couple managed to wipe out $125,000 in debt.
4. Retail Sales: False advertising and other deceptive practices, defective merchandise, problems with rebates, coupons, gift cards and gift certificates, failure to deliver
We get it: Retailers can be sneaky. One of the most frustrating aspects of shopping is that the original store price is often an inflated lie to trick you into thinking the marked-down price is a steal. We’ve found five stores where you should never pay full price. Learn the ridiculously simple way to save on everything through legitimate promotions, coupon websites and cash-back rewards: the quadruple-dip.
5. Services: Misrepresentations, shoddy work, failure to have required licenses, failure to perform
The complaints in this category included cases where tax preparers illegally deducted fees from customers’ tax refunds, or charged people for services that were never performed. It’s pretty much up to you to vet tax professionals you hire and as odd as it sounds, the Internal Revenue Service doesn’t have the authority to regulate them.
6. Utilities: Service problems or billing disputes with phone, cable, satellite, Internet, electric and gas service
Customer service calls from hell are no fun, and to make matters worse, they could cost you more than $750 a year. Always ask customer service representatives for their name and direct line in case you get disconnected or to a transfer dead-end, and try to build a positive relationship with that person so they want to help you, says Shep Hyken, author of “Amaze Every Customer Every Time.”
7. Landlord/tenant: Unhealthy or unsafe conditions, failure to make repairs or provide promised amenities, deposit and rent disputes, illegal eviction tactics
It may feel like landlords have all the power and while your home is still their property, there are some laws and tricks that favor tenants. Do a background check on your landlord to spot issues related to building negligence, or lawsuits that describe tenant misery. Read the 10 things landlords won’t tell you, including that you really should be paying less rent.
8. Home solicitations: Misrepresentations or failure to deliver in door-to-door, telemarketing or mail solicitations, do-not-call violations tied with Internet Sales: misrepresentations or other deceptive practices, failure to deliver online purchases
People are often left to distinguish the real from the themselves when online shopping, making purchases a gamble. Avoid buying products off websites that are based overseas, and insist on documentation for antiques and memorabilia.
9. Health products/services: Misleading claims, unlicensed practitioners, failure to deliver
What can you expect from different health and medical professionals? The different specializations, regulations and credentials vary across fields. Don’t expect the emergency room to cure you. As far as cures go, rehab center success rates mean very little. And regardless of what fertility doctors fueling a $3.5 billion market claim, they can’t change basic biology, and sometimes don’t have a good handle on the health risks involved. As for plastic surgery, you could be better off spending that money on a therapist who can help you be less concerned about your appearance, especially since these specialists are often unaware of the long-term effects of procedures.
10. Fraud: Bogus sweepstakes and lotteries, work-at-home schemes, grant offers, fake check scams, imposter scams and other common frauds
Who still loves paper checks? Crooks. Guard your checkbook because it’s easier than ever to print fake checks using a printer at home. Identify the biggest scams of the year, which include various permutations of telemarketing abuse, and defend yourself by learning the 10 secrets of scam artists. Hint: They’re Facebook-stalking you.
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