A new consumer complaint survey was released a couple of weeks ago. I was totally going to say something about it, but then the stock market fell eleventy-million points (on average) and all the money in my wallet turned into Monopoly money, which is only good for tiny green plastic houses and paying that weird Luxury Tax, but there’s nothing luxurious about a game of Monopoly, really. I mean sure, it starts out all fun, and “I’m the banker!” and “I’m the Shoe!” and “Who wants Park Place!” But then, seventeen hours later, one dude’s got ALL the hotels and another dude’s got ALL the railroads, and the dice keep not letting you just LAND ON BOARDWALK ALREADY so you can finally just bankrupt the heck out of there and what were we talking about?

Right. Complaints.

The Consumer Federation of America National Association of Consumer Agency [pause for breath] Administrators North American Consumer Protection Investigators published its 2010 Consumer Complaint Survey Report on 27 July 2011. The good news? Fraud is a new category in the Top 10. The not-really-news news? People still don’t like the collections industry.

“As in the last survey,” we learn in the Key Findings section, “complaints about credit and debt are second only to auto-related complaints in the top ten.” And having recently ridden in the world’s most awful rental car on a trip to Staunton, Virginia (Woodrow Wilson, represent!), I can confirm that the auto industry is, indeed, the worst.

How the report characterizes consumer complaints against the collections industry is a little problematic. “Given the lingering recession, it is not surprising that credit and debt complaints remain second only to auto problems.” Really? Is it the recession? That seems both (a) too pat; and (b) mostly wrong. Because it’s not like in times when we weren’t going through a recession (Yes, Virginia, there once was a time) people weren’t still complaining about debt collectors. What’s highlighted here, without necessarily being commented on, is the fact that complaints don’t have to be rooted in any sort of reality to be aggregated and calculated for top 10 lists. Someone just has to complain.

Anyway, here are the Top 10 Consumer Complaints in 2010 (and remember, it’s often more of an honor just to be nominated). The 2009 ranking is given in parenthesis:

1. Auto: (1) Misrepresentations in advertising or sales of new and used cars, lemons, faulty repairs, leasing and towing disputes

2. Credit/Debt: (2) Billing and fee disputes, mortgage‐related fraud, credit repair, debt relief services, predatory lending, illegal or abusive debt collection tactics

3. (tie) Home Improvement/Construction: (3) Shoddy work, failure to start or complete the job Retail Sales: (5) False advertising and other deceptive practices, defective merchandise, problems with rebates, coupons, gift cards and gift certificates, failure to deliver

4. Utilities: (4) Service problems or billing disputes with phone, cable, satellite, Internet, electric and gas service

5. Services: (6) Misrepresentations, shoddy work, failure to have required licenses, failure to perform

6. Internet Sales: (7) Misrepresentations or other deceptive practice, failure to deliver online purchases

7. Household Goods: (8) misrepresentations, failure to deliver, faulty repairs in connection with furniture or appliances

8. Landlord/Tenant: (8) Unhealthy or unsafe conditions, failure to make repairs or provide promised amenities, deposit and rent disputes, illegal eviction tactics

9. Fraud: (not in top 10 last year) Bogus sweepstakes and lotteries, work-at-home schemes, and other scams

10. Home Solicitations: (9) Misrepresentations or failure to deliver in door-to-door, telemarketing or mail solicitations, do-not-call violations

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