Voice of the consumer: What were the top consumer complaints of 2021?

11 Call For Action lead investigator Katie Pelton.
11 Call For Action lead investigator Katie Pelton.(KKTV)
Published: Aug. 29, 2022 at 6:44 AM MDT
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Our 11 News Call For Action team pens a weekly column for our news partner The Gazette. Previous columns can be found here.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - From robocalls to retail issues, we are talking to the experts about the top consumer complaints of the last year. The list is put together by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), a nonprofit organization that researches consumer issues.

I talked with the group about what you need to watch for and how consumers can protect themselves.

“For the sixth year in a row, the No. 1 complaint was auto sales and repairs,” said CFA’s Director of Consumer Protection Erin Witte. “The No. 2 was landlord tenant complaints, and No. 3 was home improvement repairs and contractors.”

I’m not surprised by the list. Besides scam calls, the No. 1 complaint our Call for Action team hears about is contractor complaints. Witte shared advice about what you need to know before hiring a contractor.

“One of the most common complaints we saw was consumers that would make a significant down payment, or sometimes the entire payment for a certain contracted repair on their home, up front, and then the contractor actually didn’t show up. Sometimes they perform shoddy work and the consumers had tremendous difficulty trying to get that money back from the contractor,” said Witte.

“If you are in an area where the state or the locality requires a home improvement contractor or a general contractor to have a license, definitely look up that license. See if you can get access to whether any complaints have been filed against that person or that business,” said Witte. “You can do certain things on your own, such as making sure the contractor actually has a business location, instead of a P.O. box, that’s one red flag. You can try to contact references, people the contractor has worked with before.”

Most importantly, make sure you look over the contract carefully before you sign it. “A big red flag is when a contractor includes spaces that are blank, that are unclear, you may not understand,” she added. “Feel free to really push back with the contractor, don’t sign a contract that’s blank, ask questions and make sure that you really understand what you’re signing up for.”

Over the past year, landlord tenant complaints have increased, which could be due to several factors. “The landlord tenant complaints definitely increased from 2020 to 2021, and we point out in the highlights that during 2021, the federal eviction moratorium ended, and every state and locality was then tasked with whether or not they were going to extend tenant protections,” said Witte. “So more consumers may have been required to rent, there were lots of rent increases. As far as why these complaints have increased, I think more people were renting due to increasing home prices.”

The top 10 complaint categories made to the Consumer Federation of America are the following: auto sales and repair, landlord tenant, home improvement repairs and contractors, retail purchase issues, consumer debt and credit, frauds and scams, utilities, which is tied with health care/wellness and robocalls/telemarketing, professional services, and travel and recreation.

More on the report can be found here.

Click here to read the original column on gazette.com.