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Energy, Credit, Cable Concerns Top List Of Consumer Complaints

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LANSING (WWJ) - A new report from the Attorney General’s consumer protection division shows a large portion of consumer complaints in 2011 were related to gas and energy prices.

The activities reported by consumers ranged from suspected gas price gouging to billing disputes with energy providers.

Attorney General spokeswoman Joy Yearout encourages consumers to let the office know when they’re suspicious. In December, it helped bust a gas price fixing scam in Madison Heights.

“Essentially they all got together and decided that on four different days they were gonna charge the same price and all four of those station owners were convicted,” Yearout said.

Concerns over fuel and energy were ranked fourth on the Attorney General’s complaint list for 2011. That’s up four spots from the year before and Yearout said it’s bound to move higher on the list as oil prices climb.

The number one consumer complaint in Michigan is related to debt collection.  Yearout said Michiganders have complained about aggressive debt collector tactics and also about collection scams when criminals impersonate debt collectors.

Yearout said it’s illegal for debt collectors to threaten, intimidate or harass you.

Top 10 Consumer Complaint Categories of 2011

1. Credit and Financial Concerns:  Complaints in this category range from credit and collection companies, mortgage bankers, brokers, and predatory lending matters.

2. Telecommunications and Cable or Satellite TV:  This category includes complaints about cable and satellite TV services, telemarketing, do-not-call violations, cell phone issues, and unauthorized charges or unauthorized switching of service providers.

3. Retail:  This category includes complaints about extended warranties, the quality of merchandise, rebates, and scanner or pricing errors.

4. Gasoline/Fuel/Energy:  Along with the rising price of fuel, this category jumped four spots to number four this year.  This category includes complaints about gas prices, and billing disputes involving home heating oil, natural gas, and electricity service.

5. Internet:  This category includes Internet purchases and auctions, failure to deliver or refund, fraudulent e-mail solicitations, and Internet service provider complaints.

6. Motor Vehicle or Automobile:  This category includes complaints about lemon law violations, advertising, warranty, quality, and misrepresentation.

7. Health Service Providers:  This category is new to our Top 10 consumer complaint list for 2011, and includes billing disputes between consumers and their medical, dental, or other health care providers.  The sudden closure of Allcare’s Dental clinics in Michigan and nationwide likely resulted in the boost in complaint volume.  Through its mediation efforts, the Schuette’s Consumer Protection Division was able to recover almost $100,000 in consumer refunds (in the form of chargebacks or credits from credit card companies or third party financing companies) for consumers affected by Allcare’s sudden closure.  Although Allcare clinics suddenly closed in January, 2011, the company did not file for bankruptcy until November, 2011.

8. Personal Service Providers:  Complaints regarding a company’s failure to refund, cancel a contract, or deliver services are included in this category.

9. Mail Order:  Failure to deliver merchandise, unsolicited merchandise, and contest deception complaints make up this category.  Lottery and fraudulent check scams are also included in this category, and continue to target seniors

10. Contractors and Home Improvement: This category includes complaints about dissatisfaction with contractors, failure to deliver, and problems with warranty issues.

More information alerts can be found by going to www.michigan.gov/ag and clicking on the “Consumer Protection” link.  Schuette encourages consumers with concerns or questions to contact the Consumer Protection Division toll-free by calling 1-877-765-8388.

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