No Call and Phone Company Complaints
Lead ’05 Top 10 Complaint List
The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade
& Consumer Protection’s Top 10 Consumer Complaint List
for 2005 shows complaints about violations of the “Do Not
Call” telemarketing law leading the list for the second
straight year, followed by complaints against telephone companies,
landlords, investment schemes, and home improvement contractors.
Also making the list were complaints about gas prices, motor vehicle
repair, Internet service providers, health and medical services,
and motor vehicle sales.
Consumer Protection officials point out the
state has taken 46 enforcement actions against telemarketing companies
since 2003 for violating the “Do Not Call” law and
are preparing to give telephone companies a much closer look in
2006. Consumer Protection Bureau Director Jim Rabbitt told me
in mid-February, “Some of the large Wisconsin telephone
companies appear to think that Consumer Protection is the second
stop in customer service for their companies,” adding, “For
some companies, a pattern of billing errors is clear based on
complaints.” He then noted, “The telephone companies
must know that consumers typically complain only when the billing
amount in dispute exceeds $10.” Therefore, he wondered aloud,
“How many telephone companies mis-bill consumers for amounts
under $10?” Rabbitt noted that he has not seen similar problems
with the state’s 11 telephone cooperatives.
Gas pricing and health services complaints joined
the Top 10 list for the first time and investment complaints continued
to quickly climb up the list. You are probably not surprised that
your fellow consumers are upset about gas prices. No doubt this
consumer rebellion of sorts led to Governor Doyle’s well-publicized
assault on record oil company profits this past year. I also expect
health services complaints will continue to grow as more con artists
attempt to market fictitious health care plans to consumers by
e-mail or on signs next to the highway. I am not surprised investment
complaints continue to climb. We are known nationally as a “victim
state” because we tend to trust strangers promoting “business
opportunities” through infomercials or by e-mail.
Wisconsin consumers filed 14,172 written complaints
with Consumer Protection and an additional 170,440 sought help
over the phone or through the Internet. Consumer Protection returned
$5,430,774 to the state treasury and consumers in 2005 through
fines, forfeitures, mediated consumer refunds, and restitution.
This compares to the $2.7 million the program costs state taxpayers.
I will continue to write more about the state’s
top consumer complaints in future editions of WECN Magazine. Until
then, you may contact Wisconsin Consumer Protection toll free
at 1-800-422-7128 or through its website at www.datcp.state.wi.us.