June 28, 2022
Top consumer headaches: Bedbugs, penny auctions, energy 'audits'
Bedbugs, penny auctions, gold buying-companies and solicitations for home improvement work disguised as “free” energy audits are among the newest complaints that local and state consumer protection agencies dealt with during the past 12 months, according to a survey just released.

The fastest-growing complaints in the survey by advocacy groups the Consumer Federation of America and the North American Consumer Protection Investigators involved debt collection abuses, Do Not Call list violations, mortgage-related problems and home improvement scams.

The report’s top 10 complaints include familiar issues, such as auto sales and repair and credit/debt issues. But a set of real estate related complaints cracked the top 10 for the first time covering issues with timeshare sales and resales, retirement and assisted living facilities and real estate fraud.

Tenant bedbug problems and home repair firms using high energy bills to dupe consumers were among the fastest-growing complaint categories, giving consumer agencies around the country a new set of issues to deal with.

The agencies' report was generated by a survey of 38 state, county and city consumer protection agencies from 22 states from March 2011 through May 2012.

“State and local agencies are essential components of the consumer protection system in the United States,” said Susan Grant, director of consumer protection at CFA. “Their services save consumers and businesses money, relieve the burden on courts, foster confidence in government, keep the public safe, and help ensure fairness in the marketplace.”
The report also includes numerous cautionary tales.

In Georgia, the Governor’s Office of Consumer Protection told surveyors that more than 100 consumers complained that a penny auction company named Wavee charged their credit cards $179 for "bid credits" without their permission after they signed up. After an investigation, Wavee refunded more than $1 million to 16,000 consumers. In another penny auction case, iTicketBid.com refunded $22,000 to Georgia consumers when it allegedly failed to deliver sporting events tickets and other merchandise.

In Florida, the state's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said bogus "free energy audit" solicitation phone calls were among the fastest-growing Do Not Call violation complaints. Callers often falsely claimed that because the audit was free, the call was not subject to the restrictions of the Do Not Call law.

The Pinellas County (Fla.) Department of Justice and Consumer Services reported that consumers also received postcards or flyers promising free audits to help lower their utility bills.

The fastest-growing set of complaints to the California Department of Consumer Affairs involved bogus locksmiths and other firms that practice without proper licensing.

Locksmiths use the Internet to advertise low prices to consumers in crises, including being locked out of their homes. But after disassembling locks, they often sharply raise their quoted prices. The department said it forced several such security companies to close, and made hundreds of others obtain proper licenses. Source: NBCnews)
Story Date: August 5, 2012
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