LITTLE ROCK – Thousands of consumers contacted the Consumer Protection Division of the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office in 2013 with complaints regarding disputes with businesses or to report suspected scams or fraud.
Based on reports from Arkansans last year, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s office has announced the top-10 most common types of consumer complaints received by his office. McDaniel issued this consumer alert in conjunction with National Consumer Protection Week.
Consumer protection agencies across the country observe National Consumer Protection Week in March each year in order to encourage consumers to make better-informed decisions and take advantage of their consumer rights.
“We work every day to help consumers reach a positive resolution to any issues they may have,” McDaniel said. “By knowing the most common types of complaints that we receive, consumers can be equipped with information beforehand so that they can possibly avoid any problems. Our Consumer Protection Division website, www.GotYourBackArkansas.org, offers resources and advice to consumers about those important topics.”
The Consumer Protection Division received almost 7,500 complaints from Arkansas consumers last year. Through informal mediation efforts, the division recovered $1,857,522.63 on behalf of consumers.
The top 10 most common complaints from last year, by category, were:
- Automobile sales, service, financing, and repair
- Credit services, credit repair and other financial services
- Debt collection
- Payday lending
- Health care
- Landline and wireless telephone services
- Mortgages, foreclosures and home financing
- Cable TV and satellite services
- Home improvement, repair and construction
Complaints about automobile-related transactions perennially top the list as the most common complaint categories for consumers who contact the Consumer Protection Division. Automobile transactions are among the most significant purchases a consumer makes, so those transactions gain significant attention if something goes awry.
When dealing with automobile issues, consumers have reported being subject to “yo-yo” sales. These are sales in which a car dealer encourages the buyer to drive the vehicle off a lot before finance terms are finalized. When the buyer returns to complete the sale, the terms of the agreement have changed, usually leading to higher costs for the buyer. Under these circumstances, Arkansas law allows the buyer to cancel the transaction and recover his or her trade-in and down payment.
Other types of auto-related complaints involve consumers who have faced pressure to buy add-on services such as gap insurance, credit life insurance and extended warranties. Complaints about misrepresentation of the condition of an automobile, such as salvage history, are also common.
The credit and financial services category pertains to common complaints regarding credit repair, credit reporting, credit cards and banking and financing services generally. For instance, credit repair companies may promise to “erase” bad credit or provide a fix to credit reports, but most of the time the companies take a consumer’s money and do little or nothing to help improve a consumer’s credit.
The third-most common complaint category, debt collection, also regularly ranks among the top complaints. Consumers report about harassing tactics, attempts by collectors to collect old debt, or issues with being misidentified as the party from which collectors are seeking money.
The Consumer Protection Division’s website, www.GotYourBackArkansas.org, contains information about every common complaint category, as well as general tips for consumers who are navigating the marketplace. Visit the website for more details, or call the Consumer Protection Division hotline at (800) 482-8982.