Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette marked National Consumer Protection Week by releasing his annual list of the Top Ten Consumer Complaints and highlighting the Attorney General's free educational resources.
Schuette's Top Ten List is compiled by analyzing the nearly 11,000 written complaints filed with the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division in 2013.
Schuette's Consumer Protection Division also recovered nearly $2.2 million in consumer refunds and forgiven debts and more than $3.4 million in state recoveries in 2013.
"One of the best ways to protect the citizens of Michigan is to provide them with the proper information on how to avoid being exploited," said Schuette. "By providing citizens with the Top Ten Consumer Complaints List, we are highlighting the most common scams and the most problematic categories in an effort to prevent citizens from becoming victims."
In 2013, Credit and Financial Concerns once again topped the Consumer Complaint List. Last year, the Consumer Protection Division saw more than 900 complaints concerning debt collection and credit reporting. Consumers often voice concerns regarding aggressive debt collection tactics used by debt collection agencies. Debt collection scams, or phony debt collectors trying to scare consumers into giving money to pay off fraudulent debts, also remain common.
"While debt collectors may have the right to contact you," says Schuette, "they never have the right to threaten, intimidate, or harass you."
During National Consumer Protection week, Schuette's office joins consumer advocacy groups and governmental agencies from across the country to highlight the ways individuals and families can protect themselves from abusive business practices and outright scams.
Trends for 2014
Consistent with the theme that it is important to prevent victimization, Schuette looks ahead and warns consumers about what many predict will be increasing threats in 2014, such as breaches of personal data.
Breaches of personal information and data can occur through various avenues. In January, the FBI reportedly warned retailers of additional cyberattacks involving malware similar to that used in the Target breach in late 2013. Attacks like these are expected to rise over the next year. Schuette distributed a consumer alert on major data breaches through several large retailers earlier this year.
Schuette advises consumers to be wary about how they use technology when providing personal information.
Security breaches often occur over unsecured public wireless networks in places like parks, coffee shops and restaurants.
Never log into your bank or other financial accounts over a public network, and never provide your personal information to unsolicited requests of any kind.
Top 10 Consumer Complaint Categories of 2013
- Credit and Financial Concerns: The top complaint category for 2013 held onto the top spot that it has had since 2006 generating more than 2,000 complaints in a variety of areas including debt collection, credit repair, payday lending, and mortgage brokering.
- Telecommunications, Cable, and Satellite TV: Maintaining the second spot from the previous year, this category includes technology related complaints surrounding issues like robocalls, telemarketing, and cable and satellite TV services. This category made up almost 1,400 of the complaints in 2013.
- Retail: This category also ranked number three in 2012 and includes complaints about merchandise quality, warranty, and pricing disputes.
- Internet: After rising a spot in 2012, complaints in this computer-based category were once again the 4th most common. Included are issues with internet service providers, online auction disputes, and fraudulent e-mail solicitations.
- Personal Service Providers: Rising one spot from number 6, complaints in this category range from dating services and beauty shops to home security and health and fitness organizations.
- Motor Vehicle and Automobiles: Falling one spot from number 5, disputes with used car dealers, automotive repair service complaints, and lemon law violations are included in this category.
- Gasoline, Fuel, and Energy: Jumping from number 9 in 2012, this category contains complaints over gas and utility service prices.
- Small Business Service Providers: Dropping one to number 8, complaints in this category related to services provided to small business, including publishing and advertising.
- Landlord and Tenant: This category was absent from the 2012 list, but made up more than 400 complaints in 2013. A majority of the complaints in this category were concerning apartment owners and managers.
- Health Service Providers: Also absent from 2012 and rounding out the top ten is the category concerning complaints on different health service providers like doctors, dentists, and hospitals.
How to File Complaints
Schuette encourages any residents with questions or concerns to contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division toll-free by calling 1-877-765-8388.
To file a consumer complaint, Michigan residents can submit an online complaint from through the Attorney General's website at www.Michigan.gov/ag, or mail a letter explaining the problem and desired resolution to:
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette
Consumer Protection Division
P.O. Box 30213
Lansing, MI 48909