Complaints about cars top annual ranking of most popular U.S. consumer gripes

(NEW YORK) — Consumers complained about cars more than anything else in 2016, according to an annual report released by consumer watchdogs on Thursday.

The list compiled by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and North American Consumer Protection Investigators (NACPI) based on an annual survey of state and local consumer officials ranks complaints about cars as the most frequently cited by state and local consumer agencies.

They ranged from advertising issues to mechanical problems to faulty repairs to towing disputes. Complaints about shoddy or incomplete home repair or construction ranked as the second-highest complaint category.

In addition to asking agencies for their most common complaints of 2016, the survey collected information on emerging consumer issues. Used car leasing and solar energy sales both popped up as areas of growing concern, said Susan Grant, director of consumer protection and privacy for CFA.

Consumers lacking a good credit history are often drawn to used car leases, which require little or no down payment and can be arranged through a car dealer. However, such leases can carry high interest rates and are not afforded the protection of consumer laws designed for new car purchases, Grant said.

With solar energy sales, agencies reported an uptick in problems with aggressive sales, confusing contract terms and faulty installation.

Grant described local agencies as being often the first to hear about a consumer issue.

“It’s tempting to take state and local consumer protection agencies for granted,” she said. “They stand up for the little people.”

Frauds were among the “worst” complaints cited when agencies were asked about what most impacted vulnerable consumers. These included scams such as fake offers of employment, phony grants, rental scams, bogus health cures, loan scams and government imposters such as fake IRS agents seeking money for back taxes and penalties.

Amber Capoun, NACPI president and a legal assistant for the Kansas Banking Commission, said the imposter scams are especially troubling.

“It’s important for consumers to know that no one in government is going to call them, threatening arrest unless they send money immediately,” Capoun said.

Here is the complete Top 10 list:

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