On Tuesday, July 31, the Consumer Federation of America released their annual Consumer Complaint Survey Report. This report uncovers insights into the most common consumer complaints of 2011. I’m going to go over the top 10 complaints and give some solutions to avoid common issues from happening. I will cover the top 5 this week and the rest are to follow.
1. Auto Complaints
The report lists misrepresentations in advertising or sales of new and used cars, lemons, faulty repairs, and leasing issues as common complaints.
Solutions: I recently bought a 2009 used car with about 30,000 miles on it. As you can imagine, it was in pretty good condition, but you can never be too sure. When I took the vehicle out for a test drive I had a mechanic, independent from the dealership, take a look at the car. Just ask the mechanic for the truth and you should have no problem getting it. If you’re getting a lease, I’d suggest reading all the terms before signing anything.
2. Credit Card/Pay Day Loan Complaints
It’s no surprise that a common complaint among consumers has to do with credit cards and pay day loans. Consumers are often charged extremely high fees and APRs for these products by various organizations.
Solutions: Again, it’s about knowing what you’re getting yourself into. It is important to read what fees and other charges could be part of a card or loan agreement. Always check with your local credit union for solutions, since they are looking out for your best interests. Many of the credit cards at Connex have no annual fee, low APRs, and rewards. Also, consider a personal loan over a pay day loan. Pay day loans tend to have high fees and can come from non-reputable issuers. To find out more about credit card options at Connex, click here. To find out more about personal loan options at Connex, click here.
3. Home Improvement Complaints
The report lists shoddy work and failures to start or finish a job as common complaints.
Solutions: I think the report does best at tackling this by saying: “Pay only a small deposit when you contract for home improvement work; some state laws limit the percentage of the total price that can be requested upfront. The contractor may need more money for supplies and to pay subcontractors as the work proceeds. Get a written contract that sets out the payment schedule. Payments should be proportionate to the work done. Question any unexpected requests for more money, and never pay the full amount before the job has been completed.”
4. Retail Complaints
Common complaints listed in the report are consumers having issues with defective products, coupons, and rebates.
Solutions: I spent about 5 years working in retail, and I can’t stress enough how important it is to know the return policy of anywhere you shop. You’re going to want to be assured that if something you buy is defective, that you can return or exchange it within a reasonable amount of time. When it comes to coupons or rebates, I can just say it’s important to read all the terms carefully. Many times you either have to buy more than one of something. Also, certain brands or product lines can be excluded.
5. Utility Complaints
The report lists service problems or billing disputes with phone, cable, satellite, Internet, electric and gas service as common problems.
Solutions: Read and understand what terms you’re getting yourself into. What is the rate? What are the fees? Is there any extra equipment required? Is there a contract? Can you cancel that contract at reasonable or no cost? I have a personal history dealing with poor service from my cable and internet company. In one instance I was setting up new service. There was a 3 week delay from when I was starting to get charged from when I actually got service. On top of that, my first week of service had a lot of downtime and interruptions. Despite waiting on the phone for almost an hour, I made sure I got my money back for my first month of service. My service has been great since.
What’s your best tip to others for being a savvy consumer?
*Source: Consumer Complain Report from the Consumer Federation of America