And the number one consumer complaint is …
Telemarketing complaints (4,860 complaints) are on the rise and continue to top the annual list of consumer complaints collected by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). More than two out of every five complaints the agency received in 2018 were about calls from unknown numbers, unwanted sales calls or scam calls. This represents a 17-percent increase over 2017 figures.
“Consumers are frustrated with the amount of unwanted calls that they receive,” said Lara Sutherlin, administrator for the Division of Trade and Consumer Protection. “At best, these calls are a disruptive nuisance; at worst, they are a threat to the personal and financial information that consumers work hard to protect. Until a fix is identified, many Wisconsin consumers report having some success in minimizing the disruption of robocalls by using call-blocking apps for their mobile phones and letting unknown calls ring through to voicemail.”
In only its second year as a formal complaint category, Medical Services jumped two spots to number five with 255 complaints – an increase of more than 30 percent from 2017’s count (195). These complaints cover services related to clinics, hospitals and professional services in the medical field and were overwhelmingly about billing disputes, misrepresentations and unauthorized charges. This category does not include complaints regarding health-care providers, medical devices, procedures or products.
Landlord/Tenant complaints held steady at second with 1,188 complaints. Complaint allegations centered around security deposit-related issues, with tenants claiming that inappropriate amounts were withheld or that a landlord failed to return deposit funds at the end of a tenancy. Evictions and unauthorized entry were additional issues cited in many complaints.
“One of the best protections for a tenant is to be educated on your rights and responsibilities as a renter under Wisconsin law,” Sutherlin said. “DATCP offers useful resources on its website to help landlords and tenants alike stay informed about changes in state rental laws.”
Given that nearly every consumer in the state has a mobile phone, home internet service, cable/satellite television package or bundled-service agreement, it is no surprise that Telecommunications remains in the number three spot with 681 complaints lodged against a wide spectrum of service providers. Customers made allegations about billing disputes, misleading representations, unauthorized charges and performance issues.
Home Improvement moved up one spot to number four with 489 complaints – up more than 20 percent since 2017 – about a wide range of allegations: that contractors failed to provide the services promised under a contract, charged for services or repairs that were not performed, failed to honor warranties or provided unsatisfactory workmanship.
Rounding out the top 10 for 2018:
6. Identity Theft (250 complaints): Issues included fraud, tax-identity theft, misuse of Social Security numbers and unauthorized account access.
7. Motor Vehicle Repair (196): Complaints commonly involved unauthorized charges, workmanship and failures to provide services or honor warranties.
8. Gas Pumps (169; received by DATCP’s Bureau of Weights and Measures): Complaints were primarily from consumers concerned about gas pump accuracy and credit card skimmers in gas pumps.
9. Motor Vehicle Sales (155): Issues involved inadequate disclosures and misrepresentations.
10. Fuel Quality (119; received by DATCP’s Bureau of Weights and Measures): Complaints centered on concerns about the quality of fuel at retail stations.
In all, DATCP received 11,303 complaints to the Bureau of Consumer Protection and another 390 to the Bureau of Weights and Measures. The agency returned more than $4.6 million to Wisconsin residents, the majority of which was in the form of mediated refunds, negotiated settlements or court-ordered restitutions.
“Consumers facing issues with businesses are always encouraged to learn more through the many resources offered on the DATCP website,” Sutherlin said. “If you need additional help, we are proud to provide guidance through our Consumer Protection Hotline or to help you navigate the situation through our complaint mediation team.”