Saying consumer complaints are on the rise is an understatement.
Budget cuts have left many businesses with less customer representatives.
Three consumer organizations got together to study the most common, fastest growing and worst complaints and look for ways to fix the problems.
The Consumer Federation of America, the National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators and the North American Consumer Protection Investigators collaborated on a study called, The Nation’s Top Ten Consumer Complaints .
These included the most common economic hardships faced by consumers like poor customer service, billing errors and faulty workmanship.
The study also suggests new laws that are needed and offers 10 ways to protect yourself from scams and rip-offs.
Here are the top 10 consumer complaints, along with possible remedies put together by consumer expert, Andrea Woroch with kinoliinc.com:
COMPLAINT: The fast-talking salesman isn't an out-of-date myth. Such tactics still exist, and they're bolstered by misrepresentations in advertising. What's a car buyer to do?
REMEDY: Research any unfamiliar products before you begin shopping. Consumer Reports and Car and Driver and review cars on their websites, although you have to buy a subscription to read Consumer Reports online so you might look for print copies at your public library. Safercar.gov also allows you to check for recalls by make and year of the vehicle.
2. Credit and Debt
COMPLAINT: A friend had a credit rating about 800, until his bank was purchased and all routing numbers were changed. All his bills were auto-paid so he had to change this information for each account -- a feat that proved to be unbelievably difficult. Six months later, he's still trying to get the situation corrected and his credit rating has dropped below 700.
Correcting credit and debt errors is a nightmare from which it often feels Americans will never wake. To do so requires determination, many phone calls and lots of letters, but you're faced with an even bigger problem if you allow the mistake to stand.
REMEDY: Companies can't legally charge a fee to help you settle or reduce debts, including avoiding foreclosure. Instead, seek out legitimate, licensed sources to deal with such problems. Non-profit credit counseling agencies are available for free or at a reduced cost, depending on your financial situation. To find a service in your area, call 1-800-388-2227 or visit the National Foundation for Credit Counseling website.
3. Home Improvement and Construction (tied with Retail Sales)
COMPLAINT: After seven years of trying to build his dream home, actor Will Smith was so frustrated he advised others not to even attempt the job. If a multi-zillionaire celebrity was so stressed by the process, what can us little people do about shoddy work and failing to start or finish the job?
REMEDY: Research companies before you engage their services and only hire those who are licensed. Word of mouth is your best ally and getting references is a necessity.
Rutgers University compiled a detailed listing of websites with resources for researching companies of all types. The Better Business Bureau also can often fill you in on complaints lodged against local companies.
3. Retail Sales (tied with Home Improvement and Construction)
COMPLAINT: False advertising, defective merchandise, problems with coupons, gift cards and rebates...the problems abound. The maxim "buyer beware" particularly becomes a necessity when you're dealing with a small budget for high-ticket items, but even smaller purchases can break the bank, if repeated often enough.
REMEDY: To avoid problems with gift cards, use them promptly instead of tossing them into a drawer. Even long-established businesses -- like Borders and Circuit City -- can go broke and you might have trouble cashing in your cards when they do. If its unlikely you'll use the them, sell your gift cards on GiftCardGranny.com .
A fake coupon likely won't have a bar code and expiration date. Look for qualified, printable and online coupons at such sites as CouponSherpa.com .
To ensure you receive a rebate, follow the guidelines listed in Consumer Reports' article, Rebate tips: Make sure you get what's coming to you.
COMPLAINT: If you have phone, satellite, cable, electric, Internet or gas service, you likely know why the survey respondents complained about their utility services. I went through three Internet providers before finding one that actually worked, which left me without service for three months. Naturally, this led to billing problems, a problem almost every American has experienced.
REMEDY: The Consumerist received so many complaints on billing and service issues they created directions on How to Write a Complaint Letter. Make sure you read the "Comments" on this page as they provide useful advice. Before resorting to a letter, however, start with at least two attempts to solve the problem over the phone. Never