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Consumer complaints rise 18 percent in 2018


This news story was published on January 23, 2019.
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Tom Miller, Iowa Attorney General

DES MOINES – Consumer complaints to the Iowa Attorney General’s Office increased 18 percent in 2018 over the previous year, led by complaints related to vehicles, home improvement projects and imposter scams.

In total, the office’s Consumer Protection Division received 3,495 complaints, up from 2,961 in 2017. This follows a 5 percent increase from 2016 to 2017.

“It’s hard to pinpoint an exact reason for the increase, but we’re seeing more complaints in several categories,” Attorney General Tom Miller said. “Our investigators and attorneys attempt to resolve each complaint as fairly and justly as possible. In some cases, we could use the Legislature’s help in strengthening Iowa laws to provide justice to consumers.”

Topping the list was auto complaints at 493, which included complaints over repairs, financing, warranties and sales practices for vehicles including cars, motorcycles, ATVs, and trailers.

The number of complaints over imposter scams more than doubled over the last year, from 161 to 339. The category was again the second-highest category of complaint but likely is only the tip of the iceberg. Many more consumers contacted the Consumer Protection Division to report the scams but did not file complaints.

Imposter scams, which generally occur through phone calls, emails, or social media, involve a scammer who pretends to be someone they’re not, poses an urgent problem and seeks immediate payment to resolve that problem. Imposters engage in a variety of ruses, such as pretending to be a company with whom you’ve done business, an IRS agent collecting overdue tax payments, or relatives who need money for an emergency.

“Don’t wire money or provide money card or gift card numbers to anyone over the phone who wants you to pay now,” said Miller, who urges Iowans to hang up when receiving such a call. Don’t respond to messages without verifying phone numbers or social media accounts, he said.

Home improvement complaints were again near the top of the list and increased 28 percent over last year.

Miller urges consumers to avoid red flags like unsolicited calls or high-pressure sales tactics, and to check references before you make a down payment and get a contract in writing. Find more tips on the Attorney General’s website.

Too often, homeowners are left in the lurch if they make a down payment on a project and a contractor fails to finish the job. As a result, the Iowa Attorney General’s office has pre-filed a bill with the Legislature to strengthen the law involving home improvement contracts. Under the bill, a contractor must file with the state a $75,000 surety bond, and consumers damaged by a fraud or breach of contract can recover costs from the bond. Contractors who violate the requirement would be guilty of a simple misdemeanor.

Attorney General Miller has also proposed bills that would:

New laws can make a big difference. In 2017, the Consumer Protection Division received 127 written complaints related to payday lending. That shrank to nine in 2018, in part because the 2017 Legislature changed the law to crack down on unlicensed lenders, the majority of which are online payday lenders. The division still gets calls related to payday lending but most are resolved without filing a written complaint.

 

MOST COMMON CONSUMER PROTECTION DIVISION COMPLAINTS IN 2018

Here are the top 15 categories, with the most common subcategories under each:

 
Category Total complaints Top subcategories Subcategory complaints
Auto 493
Auto repairs 158
Financing 80
Warranty plans & services 58
Imposter 339
Business 121
Government 63
Home improvement 286
Miscellaneous remodeling services 144
Roofing/windows/siding 76
Media 283
Satellite TV 76
Bundled media services 74
Home Goods & Services 182  

 

 

Appliances 42
Telecom 166
Mobile 119
Housing & Realty 166
Time share sales 67
Rental housing 40
Internet 164
Tech support scams 80
Access services 46
Lending (non-mortgage) 136
Credit cards 58
Personal services 131
Travel/vacation 53
Health care 120
Provider/insurance billing 42
Debt 114
Collections 106
Business-to-business 101
Supplies & Service 67
Insurance 101
General 98
Mortgage 96
Loan servicing 27
Loss mitigation 17

Consumers with questions or complaints can contact the Consumer Protection Division through the Attorney General’s website, by email or by phone:

Website: www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.gov

Email: consumer@ag.iowa.gov

Phone: 515-281-5926 (outside the Des Moines area, call toll-free: 888-777-4590)

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3 Responses to Consumer complaints rise 18 percent in 2018

  1. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    January 24, 2019 at 10:17 pm

    Yeah tom ! when are you going to pay me my 10 dollar rebate from your Microsoft lawsuit ?

  2. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    January 24, 2019 at 9:49 pm

    GOP leader maintain their usual “hands off” policy toward business by not enforcing laws ment to protect consumers.

  3. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    January 24, 2019 at 11:21 am

    Numbers will go down because of the public servants shut down.