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A.G. Schuette Marks National Consumer Protection Week with Top Ten Complaint List
March 5, 2012
LANSING - Attorney General Bill Schuette today marked National Consumer Protection Week by releasing the Department's Top Ten Consumer Complaints and highlighting the free educational resources offered to Michigan citizens to help them become savvy consumers. Schuette's Top Ten list is compiled from analysis of the 12,844 written complaints filed with the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division in 2011. In 2011, Schuette's Consumer Protection Division recovered nearly $1.9 million in consumer refunds and forgiven debts, and nearly $3.9 million in State recoveries.
"Our consumer protection division works every day resolve consumer complaints and educate citizens to help them avoid becoming victims of scams," said Schuette. "In the coming months, our top-notch consumer advocates will work to help eligible Michigan homeowners to take advantage of relief offered through the national settlement with mortgage servicers."
On February 7, 2012, Schuette announced Michigan will join at least 40 other states in a multi-billion dollar nationwide settlement with five of the nation's largest banks/mortgage servicers in response to allegations of faulty foreclosure processes and poor servicing of mortgages that harmed Michigan homeowners. Michigan residents will receive approximately a half-billion dollars, including a $101 million fund provided directly to the State of Michigan.
With these funds, Schuette has called for the creation of the Michigan Homeowner Protection Fund to direct the monies towards six initiatives to ensure Michigan families, children and veterans affected by the foreclosure crisis receive the maximum benefit from the settlement funds. The initiatives include: foreclosure counseling, restitution for certain victims of foreclosure rescue scams, payments to borrowers who suffered foreclosure, veteran's assistance, aid for children made homeless by foreclosure and expansion of mortgage fraud prosecutions through a new Homeowner Protection Unit within the Department of Attorney General. Schuette noted he looks forward to working with the Michigan legislature to secure the necessary appropriations for the Homeowner Protection Fund once settlement is finalized and the funds are transferred to Michigan.
Schuette reminds Michigan homeowners that citizens do not need to pay to speak with their lender or servicer or to obtain outside assistance with foreclosure issues. Free local assistance with foreclosure issues can be found by calling the Michigan State Housing Development Authority at (866) 946-7432.
In 2011, credit and financial concerns topped the Attorney General's list of consumer complaints, due in large part to continuing economic challenges in Michigan and nationwide. Debt collection is one of the primary areas of concern for Michigan consumers calling the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division for assistance. Consumers often voice concerns regarding aggressive debt collection tactics used by some debt collection agencies. Debt collection scams, or phony debt collectors trying to scare consumers into providing money to pay off fraudulent debts, were unfortunately very popular in 2011.
The Attorney General reminds Michigan consumers that, although debt collectors may have the right to contact you, they never have the right to threaten, intimidate, or harass. In addition to reviewing the Attorney General Schuette's Consumer Alert on Debt Collection and Debt Collection scams, found online (1.usa.gov/debtcollectoralert), Schuette encourages residents with questions or concerns to contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division toll-free by calling 1-877-765-8388.
General Schuette is continuing the office's efforts to proactively protect Michigan's most vulnerable consumers, through the Michigan Cyber Safety Initiative (Michigan CSI) and Senior Brigade programs. Michigan CSI protects Michigan's children by educating kids and their parents about responsible online behavior. Since its inception, the Attorney General's office has provided Michigan CSI programming to nearly 900,000 children and adults. The Senior Brigade program educates seniors, their families, and their caregivers about how to avoid common scams and fraud on several topics ranging from Identity Theft to Online Safety. The Attorney General's office has presented more than 1,000 Senior Brigade seminars, and educated more than 23,000 Michigan seniors and their families or caregivers, since the program's start in 2009. Additional information about each program is available online at www.michigan.gov/csi or www.michigan.gov/seniorbrigade. Both free programs are available statewide throughout the year.
The Consumer Protection Division also provides an extensive list of tips and consumer alerts for Michigan residents. By going online, consumers can find trusted information on a wide range of consumer protection topics like identity theft, ponzi schemes, charitable giving during the holidays and home remodeling scams. Brochures and 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.
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.
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