This week is National Consumer Protection Week, and most AG offices have taken to their websites, Facebook, and Twitter, as well as traditional media, to draw public awareness to scams that criminals have attempted to perpetrate on consumers, and to highlight recent activities, priorities, and future potential areas of interest for their Consumer Protection Divisions.
In keeping with the spirit of the week, a number of AG offices have surveyed the complaints they received in 2013 and compiled lists of the top areas in which consumers alleged that they have been deceived, treated unfairly, or subjected to abusive practices.
Obviously, the lists vary somewhat across the states – New York’s economy and population being very different than, say, Iowa’s – but a number of commonalities transcend both geographic and demographic differences to provide a glimpse of what issues AGs likely will continue or even increase their focus on in the coming year:
- In every state, debt collection ranked as one of the top issues, appearing in the top three in almost every list and taking the number one spot in Colorado, Illinois, and Michigan.
- Although not as high-ranking, complaints about telecommunications services, including mobile phones, cable, and satellite television, also appeared on almost every list.
- Consumer and mortgage lending was another oft-complained of subject, which is unsurprising considering AGs’ significant scrutiny of such issues in the wake of the financial crisis, increasingly in conjunction with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
- Complaints regarding Internet sales and marketing appeared on many lists, as did identity theft, a reflection of the continued growth of e-commerce as an integral part of daily life, as well as the challenge to regulators to patrol the reaches of the Internet and ensure the security of payment and other consumer data that businesses increasingly compile and on which electronic transactions progressively depend.
- Complaints regarding health services and providers appeared on a number of lists, perhaps a harbinger of things to come as implementation of the Affordable Care Act allows an increasing number of consumers to use health services they may have previously forgone.
- Rounding out the lists were complaints regarding automobile sales and services, energy and utilities, landlords, home improvement and construction, retail sales and promotions, and general fraud.
Below is a compilation of links to several states’ lists, although more may be forthcoming as National Consumer Protection Week draws to a close. Some states provide more detail than others regarding the number of complaints received and how they classified them, but each list is worth a quick skim as a unique indicator of AG consumer protection trends.