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Archive for Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Home improvement tops consumer complaint list

November 26, 2002

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— Roofs that leak, poor driveway paving jobs and other home improvement headaches were the No. 1 and fastest-growing type of consumer complaint last year, surpassing gripes about car sales and household goods.

The National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators and the Consumer Federation of America said Monday it compiled the annual survey from complaints reported to state and local consumer protection agencies.

"With housing being so tight, people are looking to stay in their existing homes and make changes," said Nancy Sabella, director of the association of consumer administrators. "There are an awful lot of scam artists out there. It's very easy for someone to put out a shingle and then the next day they're gone."

Home improvement is the industry in which a company is most likely to go out of business and reopen under another name, the survey found.

Problems with household goods such as appliances and auto sales ranked second and third, respectively, on the list of consumer complaints. Those two had tied for first place in 2000.

Christopher Hedges, West Virginia's assistant attorney general, said door-to-door paving scams were a major problem in his state last year. Con artists typically targeted elderly homeowners, did shoddy work and then intimidated the customer into paying an inflated amount for repairs.

Other scams reported by local agencies involved landscapers and other contractors accepting payment but failing to complete the work.

The Federal Trade Commission recommends that homeowners get references before hiring contractors and be wary of those who sell door-to-door, accept only cash, have no listed phone number or request full payment up front.

Complaints about household goods - appliances, furniture, electronics and other retail items - involved defective merchandise, deceptive advertising and failure to honor warranties or provide refunds.

Many complaints with auto sales involved financing deals.

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