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Reporting consumer issues can put money back in your pocket

Auto issues, home improvement repairs and retail sales were the top three complaints reported to state and local consumer agencies in 2019, according to a survey by the Consumer Federation of America.

Why People Report Issues

Tom Chalut of Bonita Springs is someone who ran into an issue with a contractor last year and made the decision to report him.

“I gave him almost $31,000,” Chalut said. “They picked the check up and never came back.”

Chalut filed a complaint with the state licensing agency because he thinks numbers speak volumes.

“The more people that do report it, the more exposure people like that get and hopefully can save people from going through the same hassle,” Chalut said.

Susan Grant, with Consumer Federation of America, says reporting the problem can help you get money back.

“We surveyed 31 agencies in 20 states this year,” Grant said. “Collectively, they recovered or save for consumers more than $300 million.”

Even if money isn’t lost, Grant says report that too.

“It helps alert them [consumer reporting agencies] to potential problems, scams or systemic abuses in the marketplace,” Grant said.

Some of the state agencies that accept complaints are Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, the Florida Office of the Attorney General and Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Counties may also accept complaints if it’s something code mandated or permitted, like a roof job.

Other Survey Findings

According to the CFA report, these are the complaints most frequently cited as the top problems reported to state and local consumer agencies in 2019:

  1. Auto: Misrepresentations in advertising or sales of new and used cars, deceptive financing practices, defective vehicles, faulty repairs, car leasing and rentals, towing disputes.
  2. Home Improvement/Construction: Shoddy work, failure to start or complete the job, failure to have required licensing or registration.
  3. Retail Sales: False advertising and other deceptive practices, defective merchandise, problems with rebates, coupons, gift cards and gift certificates, failure to deliver.
  4. Landlord/Tenant: Unhealthy or unsafe conditions, failure to make repairs or provide promised amenities, deposit and rent disputes, illegal eviction tactics.
  5. Credit/Debt: Billing and fee disputes, mortgage problems, credit repair and debt relief services, predatory lending, illegal or abusive debt collection tactics.
  6. (Tie) Communications: Misleading offers, installation issues, service problems, billing disputes with telephone and internet services; Services: Misrepresentations, shoddy work, failure to have required licensing or registration, nonperformance.
  7. Health Products/Services: Misleading claims, unlicensed practitioners, failure to deliver, billing issues.
  8. Utilities: Complaints about gas, electric, water and cable billing and service.
  9. (Tie) Fraud: Bogus sweepstakes and lotteries, work-at-home schemes, grant offers, fake check scams, imposter scams and other common frauds;
  10. Household Goods: Misrepresentations, failure to deliver, repairs issues in connection with furniture and major appliances.
  11. Internet Sales: Misrepresentations or other deceptive practices, failure to deliver online purchases.
Reporter:Allison Gormly
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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