Consumers’ top 10 complaintsPublished 9:40pm Tuesday, March 6, 2012
LANSING — Attorney General Bill Schuette marked National Consumer Protection Week by releasing the Department’s Top Ten Consumer Complaints and highlighting the free educational resources offered to Michigan citizens to help them become savvy consumers.
Schuette’s Top Ten list is compiled from analysis of the 12,844 written complaints filed with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division in 2011. In 2011, Schuette’s Consumer Protection Division recovered nearly $1.9 million in consumer refunds and forgiven debts, and nearly $3.9 million in state recoveries.
“Our consumer protection division works every day resolve consumer complaints and educate citizens to help them avoid becoming victims of scams,” Schuette said. “In the coming months, our top-notch consumer advocates will work to help eligible Michigan homeowners to take advantage of relief offered through the national settlement with mortgage servicers.”
On Feb. 7, Schuette announced Michigan will join at least 40 other states in a multibillion dollar nationwide settlement with five of the nation’s largest banks/mortgage servicers in response to allegations of faulty foreclosure processes and poor servicing of mortgages that harmed Michigan homeowners. Michigan residents will receive approximately $500,000, including a $101 million fund provided directly to the State of Michigan.
With these funds, Schuette has called for the creation of the Michigan Homeowner Protection Fund to direct the monies toward six initiatives to ensure Michigan families, children and veterans affected by the foreclosure crisis receive the maximum benefit from the settlement funds.
The initiatives include foreclosure counseling, restitution for certain victims of foreclosure rescue scams, payments to borrowers who suffered foreclosure, veteran’s assistance, aid for children made homeless by foreclosure and expansion of mortgage fraud prosecutions through a new Homeowner Protection Unit within the Department of Attorney General.
Schuette noted he looks forward to working with the Michigan legislature to secure the necessary appropriations for the Homeowner Protection Fund once settlement is finalized and the funds are transferred to Michigan.
In 2011, credit and financial concerns topped the Attorney General’s list of consumer complaints, due in large part to continuing economic challenges in Michigan and nationwide. Debt collection is one of the primary areas of concern for Michigan consumers calling the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division for assistance. Consumers often voice concerns regarding aggressive debt collection tactics used by some debt collection agencies. Debt collection scams or phony debt collectors trying to scare consumers into providing money to pay off fraudulent debts, were unfortunately very popular in 2011.
Top 10 Complaint Categories
1. Credit and Financial Concerns: Complaints in this category range from credit and collection companies, mortgage bankers, brokers and predatory lending matters.
2. Telecommunications and Cable or Satellite TV: This category includes complaints about cable and satellite TV services, telemarketing, do-not-call violations, cell phone issues and unauthorized charges or unauthorized switching of service providers.
3. Retail: This category includes complaints about extended warranties, the quality of merchandise, rebates and scanner or pricing errors.
4. Gasoline/Fuel/Energy: Along with the rising price of fuel, this category jumped four spots to number four this year. This category includes complaints about gas prices, and billing disputes involving home heating oil, natural gas and electricity service.
5. Internet: This category includes Internet purchases and auctions, failure to deliver or refund, fraudulent email solicitations and internet service provider complaints.
6. Motor Vehicle or Automobile: This category includes complaints about lemon law violations, advertising, warranty, quality and misrepresentation.
7. Health Service Providers: This category is new to our Top 10 consumer complaint list for 2011, and includes billing disputes between consumers and their medical, dental, or other health care providers. The sudden closure of Allcare’s Dental clinics in Michigan and nationwide likely resulted in the boost in complaint volume.
Through its mediation efforts, the Schuette’s Consumer Protection Division was able to recover almost $100,000 in consumer refunds (in the form of chargebacks or credits from credit card companies or third party financing companies) for consumers affected by Allcare’s sudden closure.
Although Allcare clinics suddenly closed in January 2011, the company did not file for bankruptcy until November 2011.
8. Personal Service Providers: Complaints regarding a company’s failure to refund, cancel a contract, or deliver services are included in this category.
9. Mail Order: Failure to deliver merchandise, unsolicited merchandise and contest deception complaints make up this category. Lottery and fraudulent check scams are also included in this category, and continue to target seniors.
10. Contractors and Home Improvement: This category includes complaints about dissatisfaction with contractors, failure to deliver and problems with warranty issues.