DES MOINES — Following a record year of complaints in 2020 tied to the COVID-19 pandemic and derecho, the number of complaints received by the Iowa Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division returned to near pre-pandemic levels in 2021.
Overall complaints totaled 3,536, a 12.6% decrease from the 4,011 received in 2020. However, the number of complaints received last year is still an increase of 9.6% from the 3,225 complaints filed prior to the pandemic in 2019.
“Iowans continue to face a myriad of issues in the consumer world, from imposter scams to contractors trying to take advantage of homeowners. Our Consumer Protection Division works tirelessly to address these complaints and help make consumers’ lives better,” Attorney General Tom Miller said.
Pandemic, home repairs continue to be focus
Home Improvement complaints increased 4.5% percent in 2021, even though disaster repair complaints declined sharply a year after the derecho. Complaints related to roofing, windows, siding and other services made up the majority of the 363 complaints the category received last year.
Miller has proposed 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 before starting a home improvement project. Consumers could file a claim against the bond.
Contractors who violate the requirement to obtain a bond would be guilty of a simple misdemeanor and in violation of Iowa’s Consumer Fraud Act. In addition, the Iowa Division of Labor would cancel their contractor registration.
“We’ve sued many contractors who have cheated dozens of customers, and in some cases have gotten them banned from doing business in Iowa,” Miller said. “Unfortunately, many of the defendants in these lawsuits are unwilling or unable to pay and have no assets that can be seized to pay a judgment, so the consumers are still out of their money.”
Homeowners facing repairs can avoid problems by following the office’s contractor checklist.