Auto-related complaints are the most common consumer complaint, according to a recent survey of state and local consumer protection agencies conducted by the Consumer Federation of America. The CFA said that, "These problems often involve significant amounts of money and cause great inconvenience, so consumers are more likely to report them and seek help."

The CFA said that the three fastest growing consumer complaint areas are fraud, medical billing problems, and retail sales. The CFA said that, "Complaints about retail sales run the gamut from high-pressure sales to defective merchandise, wrong orders to disputes about return and refund policies."

Some of the top areas where consumers complained about misleading advertising claims included auto, retail sales, health products and services, communications, and internet sales.

Here are the top things that consumers were complaining about in 2018:

  • Auto - Misrepresentations in advertising or sales of new and used cars, lemons, faulty repairs, auto leasing, rentals, and towing disputes.
  • Home improvement/construction - Shoddy work, failure to start or complete the job
  • Retail sales - False advertising and other deceptive practices, defective merchandise, problems with rebates, coupons, gift cards and gift certificates, and failure to deliver.
  • Services - Misrepresentations, shoddy work, failure to have required licenses, and failure to perform.
  • Landlord/tenant - Unhealthy or unsafe conditions, failure to make repairs or provide promised amenities, deposit and rent disputes, and illegal eviction tactics.
  • Utilities - Complaints about gas, electric, water and cable billing and service.
  • Health products/services - Misleading claims, unlicensed practitioners, failure to deliver, and medical billing issues.
  • Credit/debit - Billing and fee disputes, mortgage modifications and mortgage-related fraud, credit repair, debt relief services, predatory lending, and illegal or abusive debt collection tactics.
  • Communications - Misleading offers, installation issues, service problems, and billing disputes with telephone and internet services.
  • Internet sales - Misrepresentations or other deceptive practices and failure to deliver online purchases.
  • Home solicitations - Misrepresentations, abusive sales practices, and failure to deliver in door-to-door, telemarketing or mail solicitations, and do-not-call violations.
  • Household goods - Misrepresentations, failure to deliver, and faulty repairs in connection with furniture or appliances.
  • Fraud - Bogus sweepstakes and lotteries, work-at-home schemes, grant offers, fake check scams, imposter scams, and other common frauds.

These kinds of reports provide great insights to advertisers. You don't need a crystal ball to understand what consumers are concerned about or what consumer protection officials will focus on next. It's all right here. When you understand what the hot button issues are, it can you help to focus in on the potential problems in your own advertising and to better evaluate risk going forward.