WASHINGTON -- Hassles related to buying new or used vehicles top the annual list of most frequent consumer complaints, according to a survey released Monday.
The National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators, which represents government agencies that protect American shoppers, and the Consumer Federation of America, a citizens advocacy group, compiled the top 10 list for 2002 from complaints reported to state and local consumer-protection agencies.
Those agencies said they returned $130 million to wronged consumers last year, an 18 percent increase over 2001.
Complaints about automobile purchases moved up from the No. 2 spot on 2001 list to top the current list. It replaced home repairs, which fell to second place. Those categories have occupied the top two spots for the last five years.
Among the most frequent complaints about buying autos were false sales promotions, misleading advertising, financing problems, undisclosed damage and title and registration problems.
Home repair slights included companies going out of business and reopening under other names, failure to complete work and not complying with local codes.
Complaints about cell phones were among the fastest-growing areas of consumer angst.
"Consumer problems with cell phone plans, online auctions and purchases made over the Internet are catching up with perennial complaints about big-ticket purchases," said Jean Ann Fox, the Consumer Federation's protection director.
The consumer agencies said they are not getting enough money from financially strapped state and local governments to handle the increasing level of complaints. In 2002, for example, consumer protection agency budgets rose an average of 4 percent, while the number of complaints rose by 23 percent.
The 43 consumer agencies surveyed handled 300,000 complaints in 2002.
The top 10 categories of consumer complaints: auto sales; home repairs; automotive repairs; credit; advertising/telemarketing; bill collecting/practices; household goods; Internet/e-commerce; telecommunications/cable and satellite TV; real estate/landlord-tenant relationships. The final four categories all tied for seventh place on the list.
The top 10 categories for consumer complaints in 2002, according to an annual survey of consumer protection agencies conducted by the National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators and the Consumer Federation of America:
1. Automobile sales
2. Home repairs
3. Automotive repairs
6. Bill collecting/practices
7. Household goods (tie)
7. Internet/e-commerce (tie)
7. Telecommunications/cable and satellite TV (tie)
7. Real estate/landlord-tenant relationships (tie)
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