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April 2008

Wisconsin’s Top 10 Consumer Issues for 2007

The Wisconsin Bureau of Consumer Protection just released its 2007 list of the “Top 10 Consumer Complaints for 2007.” Leading the list were consumer complaints against telemarketers for violations of Wisconsin’s Do-Not-Call Law. This issue also was the highest-rated complaint in 2005 and 2006 and is the primary enforcement activity for the Bureau’s Office of Privacy Protection.

Coming in at #2 were consumer complaints against telecommunications companies. According to Consumer Protection Bureau Director Jim Rabbitt, these complaints were primarily made by consumers against cell phone companies because of a failure to cancel the contract, unauthorized charge, or misrepresentation.

Coming in at #3 for the third year were consumer complaints against landlords for such issues as a failure to return a tenant’s security deposit at the end of the lease. Complaints against home improvement contractors continue to increase and are now #4 on the top complaint list. These complaints typically focused on poorly performed work or the failure to perform home improvement work after payment has been made.

Investment schemes such as get-rich-quick e-mail from African and other countries by fax or through computer spam came in at #5 and complaints against mail order companies came in at #6. The mail order sales complaints primarily dealt with purchases over the Internet or television with a subsequent failure of the seller to deliver the product purchased. Complaints against credit card companies for misrepresentations or complaints about credit card identity theft came in at #7 and this complaint category has steadily increased over the past several years.

Coming in at #8 are complaints about business opportunities such as “work-at-home” schemes and multi-level marketing. Rabbitt noted this is an increasing problem area.

Finally, two new complaint areas hit the top 10 in 2007: complaints about cable television companies and complaints about contests and sweepstakes. According to Rabbitt, the complaints against cable companies rose primarily because of the inability of some consumers to get the NFL Network from their cable company. The Wisconsin media have covered the loud dispute between the cable companies and the NFL, as well as the Big Ten Network, because the cable companies do not want to have to pay what they feel are high prices to carry those networks as part of their basic cable package. Of course, many cable subscribers want to see their favorite NFL team or the Badgers play. This is a difficult issue to figure out who is really right since both are fighting to make a larger profit.

Rabbitt recommends consumers file complaints with his Consumer Protection by calling toll free at 1-800-422-7128 if they are first unable to get the company to provide the ordered product or service, to provide a refund, or to accept a return. Consumers may also contact Consumer Protection for helpful advice before making an expensive purchase or signing a contract. 

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