By Jim Donovan: As part of National Consumer Protection Week, The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs has released its “Top 10” list of complaints that it received from consumers last year. The high-cost categories of motor vehicles and home improvements each generating more than 10% of the total complaints.
Consumers filed 1,805 complaints related to motor vehicles and 1,401 complaints about home improvements with the State Division of Consumer Affairs. Complaints about fuel used for home heating broke into the Top 10 last year while health clubs dropped out of the annual list.
“Consumer complaints help our investigators identify potential problem areas and emerging fraud trends. It’s vitally important for consumers to file complaints with the Division of Consumer Affairs and I encourage them to do so,” Attorney General Paula T. Dow said.
The top complaints categories for 2010 are list below, with the number of complaints as noted:
1) Motor Vehicle – 1,805
2) Home Improvement – 1,401
3) Loans – 1,250
4) Internet Sales/Goods – 650
5) Professional/Occupational Service – 577
6) Fuel/Home Use – 460
7) Banks/Financial Inst – 451
8) Debt collection – 418
9) Telecommunications – 369
10 – (tied) Cable TV/Subscriptions – 276; Home Furnishings/Furniture – 276
The Division of Consumer Affairs announced the Top 10 list at the start of National Consumer Protection Week. National Consumer Protection Week is a coordinated campaign that encourages consumers nationwide to take full advantage of their consumer rights and make better-informed decisions.
“This list, and the nearly 14,000 complaints received by the Division last year, highlight our enforcement priorities and the continuing need for strong consumer education programs,” said Thomas R. Calcagni, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “Taking part in National Consumer Protection Week provides another opportunity to demonstrate how we’re taking on these challenges and empowering New Jersey’s consumers.”
The increase in home heating fuel complaints came as the Office of the Attorney General and Division of Consumer Affairs filed suit last March against a Morris County-based oil company for failure to fulfill contracts and to make deliveries to customers.
Health club/gym complaints, which ranked fifth in overall complaints received in 2008, failed to make the Top 10 list in 2009 and again in 2010. The Division of Consumer Affairs reached settlements with more than one dozen health club/gym owners in 2009 and 2010 after investigators conducted enforcement actions. The settlements require facility owners to comply with the state’s Health Club Provisions and Health Club Regulations.
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file a complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website, www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov, or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504-6200.
Information is also available about National Consumer Protection Week at www.NCPW.gov .