NEWARK – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs today kicked off National Consumer Protection Week, a consumer awareness campaign that runs during the first week of March, with a recap of New Jersey’s top 10 consumer complaint categories from 2014.
The Office of Consumer Protection, within the Division of Consumer Affairs, received a total of approximately 10,000 formal complaints from New Jersey consumers last year. This is a separate count from the 71,122 calls last year to the Division’s Consumer Service Center hotline, many of which are resolved through various forms of mediation or are referred to other appropriate agencies.
“The Division of Consumer Affairs touches the lives of New Jersey’s consumers in countless ways – not just the tens of thousands who contact our Office of Consumer Protection each year, but through the work of the Bureau of Securities, our licensing and regulation of 750,000 professionals statewide through boards such as the Board of Medical Examiners, and much more,” Division of Consumer Affairs Acting Director Steve Lee said. “We help consumers resolve complaints quickly when possible – but investigate and take robust enforcement action when necessary to protect New Jerseyans and ensure a safe, fair marketplace.”
As is often the case year after year, the categories of “Home Improvement” at #1 and “Motor Vehicles” (which includes auto sales, auto repairs, and related matters) at #2 dominated 2014’s top 10 complaints list. The “Professional Services” category, which includes complaints about physicians, lawyers, accountants, medical labs, and other professions or businesses, was #3.
Last year also saw a new addition to the top 10 list: “Energy Marketers,” representing consumer complaints about third-party energy suppliers. In June 2014, in response to an unprecedented number of complaints, the Division of Consumer Affairs and New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) filed court actions against three third-party energy suppliers that, among other things, allegedly failed to deliver on the monthly savings that were represented or guaranteed to consumers. One of the companies, HIKO Energy LLC, agreed to pay $2.1 million, including $1.85 million in consumer restitution, to resolve the State’s complaint. The other two lawsuits are pending.
The complete Top 10 consumer complaint categories list for 2014 is as follows:
#1 Home Improvement Contractors
#2 Motor Vehicles
#3 Professional Services
#4 Energy Marketers
#5 Banks/Financial Institutions
#6 Health Clubs
#7 Miscellaneous Scams
#8 Internet Sales
#9 Debt Collection
#10 Wireless Phones
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of marketplace abuse, can file a complaint with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504-6200.
National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW) is a coordinated campaign that encourages consumers nationwide to take full advantage of their consumer rights and make better-informed decisions. NCPW 2015 will take place March 1 through March 7 2015. Additional information is available at www.NCPW.gov.