Car Issues Lead List of Consumer Complaints
- A new report by the Consumer Federation of America shows people complain about their cars more than anything else.
- The report resulted from a survey of complaints lodged with consumer-protection agencies in 20 states.
- Auto-related complaints included repair-shop fraud, odometer tampering and problems with dealers.
WASHINGTON — U.S. consumers complain about their cars more than anything else, according to a new report by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA). The auto-related complaints include repair-shop fraud, odometer tampering and problems with dealers.
The CFA's data came from 40 state, county and local consumer protection agencies in 20 states responding to a survey about complaints lodged from January-December 2012. The report, released on July 31, 2013, tallies the most common complaints registered by the agencies, along with detailed examples.
The CFA study found that automotive issues topped other categories, including Home Improvement/Construction, Credit/Debt, Utilities, Retail Sales, Landlord/Tenant relations and Internet Sales. In all, various oversight agencies saved consumers $97,832,511 in 2012 through complaint mediation, administrative procedures and other enforcement activities.
Lots of anecdotal evidence backed up the report's statistics.
A New Jersey man responded to a dealer's ad offering $4,000 credit for any car "driven, pushed or pulled into the lot," said the report. The ad also listed a car the consumer wanted for $14,999, leading him to believe he'd owe $10,999. Once he got there, the man was told that car was gone, but he was shown another of the same model, which the dealer wrote up for $46,000. A state agency investigated and found that the car's window sticker, showing an actual price of $20,000, had been hidden in the trunk. The customer got the car for $14,999.
An agency in Georgia discovered an auto broker selling vehicles with odometers rolled back and falsified Federal Odometer Disclosure Statements. As a result, 17 consumers were able to rescind their transactions or receive compensation for the reduced value of their vehicles. The total savings amounted to $155,888.
In Los Angeles, a consumer experienced muffler and catalytic converter problems within a week after purchasing a used car. The dealer claimed to make the necessary repairs, but the issue got worse, and other problems cropped up with the ignition, brakes and alignment. When the dealer refused to rectify the situation, a county consumer affairs department stepped in and convinced the dealer to take the car back, refund the customer's down payment and cancel the finance agreement.
Edmunds says: The best policy remains caveat emptor. But if you feel you've been wronged, your local consumer protection agency can step in.