Ill. AG Reports Top 10 2004 Consumer Complaints; Construction Fraud Makes #3 on List

February 9, 2005

Kicking off National Consumer Protection Week, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan this week announced her Consumer Protection Division received 24,050 consumer complaints in 2004. The 2004 list marks the 19th year the list has been released.

For the fourth year in a row, telecommunication complaints involving wireless phone service, Internet service, Internet auctions and other related problems topped the list of Illinoisans’ consumer gripes, logging 3,538 complaints, or 15 percent, of the state’s 24,050 consumer complaints. Credit issues ranked second on the list with 3,325 complaints, or 14 percent, and home improvement issues ranked third with 2,895 complaints, or 12 percent of all complaints lodged with Madigan’s office in 2004.

“The annual Top Ten list serves as a reflection of the issues concerning and affecting Illinois consumers on a daily basis,” Madigan said. “This list is a roadmap that leads us to where we need to concentrate our efforts and resources.”

Telecommunications complaints to Madigan’s office consisted of issues related to wireless service and cellular phones (848 complaints), including poor reception, dropped calls and no service available in consumer’s area, among others; local phone service and repairs (745), including long waits for installation of service, general billing issues and errors and poor customer service, among others; long distance service (517), including complaints about calling plans, general billing issues and errors, poor customer service, not receiving low international rates, among others; Do Not Call (456), which includes soliciting consumers after they have signed up for the Do Not Call List; telecommunications equipment leases to businesses (344), including failure to provide advertised telecommunications service and related equipment; Internet service providers and Internet-related scams (342), including companies continuing to bill after contracts are cancelled, computer rebate offers with no local Internet service and billing for long distance charges when a consumer thought a call was local, among others; and other complaints (286), including cramming, slamming, pagers and calling cards.

Following years of negotiations to improve wireless service, Madigan’s office in July 2004 announced a settlement with three of the nation’s largest cell phone providers requiring them to provide more accurate coverage maps, give consumers a three-day right to cancel their contracts and improve how they market services to consumers. Madigan’s office led the investigation, which included 31 other state attorneys general, of the marketing techniques of Verizon Wireless, Cingular Wireless and Sprint PCS.

Complaints regarding credit came in second on this year’s list and included problems with collection agencies (1,610 complaints), including harassment by debt collectors and late fees, among others; credit cards (958), including unauthorized charges on credit card bills from discount membership buying clubs, fraudulent credit loss protection plans telemarketed to consumers and general billing issues, among others; identity theft (278); credit reporting agencies (157), including disputes over and retention of entries on consumers’ credit files; credit repair services (130), including promises to improve consumers’ credit; and other credit complaints (192).

Construction and home improvement fraud, which came in third on the 2004 list, has ranked as one of the top three consumer complaints for the past 10 years. Complaints regarding construction and home improvement in 2004 included those related to remodeling (2,024 complaints), roofs and gutters (408), siding, windows and doors (349), and new construction (114). Most of the complaints centered on failure to start or complete work, excessive charges and shoddy workmanship. In 2004, in addition to mediating thousands of complaints concerning home construction and improvement fraud, Madigan’s office filed 35 law enforcement actions against fraudulent home repair companies.

The Top 10 consumer complaints of 2004 are as follows (figures do not reflect all complaints):


1. Telecommunications 3,538
2. Credit 3,325
3. Construction: Home Improvement 2,895
4. Promotions and Schemes 2,411
5. Motor Vehicle: Used Auto Sales 1,324
6. Mail Order: Catalog 1,158
7. Business and Professional Services 1,019
(alleged fraudulent business consulting,
fraudulent financial planning, invoice
scams, among other complaints).
8. Financial Services 900
9. Motor Vehicle: Non-Warranty Repair 834
10. Motor Vehicle: New Auto Sales 703.

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