On July 29, the Consumer Federation of America and the North American Consumer Protection Investigators released their annual survey of consumer complaint data from state and local consumer agencies, which is based on 280,000 claims to thirty-seven agencies from twenty-one states and the District of Columbia.
Just as in 2013, the most common complaints arose from auto-related problems, a broad category including misrepresentations in advertising or sales of new and used cars, “lemons”, faulty repairs, leasing disputes, and towing disputes. A new auto-related problem cited in the report is the practice of “curbstoning,” which involves dealers evading responsibilities by displaying used cars on the side of the road, in parking lots, and in other off-site locations to make it appear as if they are being sold by private individuals.
Credit/debit complaints, including illegal or abusive debt collection tactics, billing and fee disputes, mortgage-related fraud, credit repair, debt relief services, and predatory lending, were third on the 2014 overall complaint list. Earlier this month, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released its first monthly complaint report, noting that it had received 163,000 debt collection complaints to date, the second highest industry tracked by the CFPB, and the top consumer complaint for the month of June 2015.
The fastest growing complaint in 2014 was identity theft, due in part to numerous recent large-scale data breaches at major retailers. A recent fast-growing identity theft problem cited in the report involves the use of consumers’ personal information to collect their tax refunds. Identity theft was responsible for 13% of overall complaints to the Federal Trade Commission, the top FTC complaint category for 2014.