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Biggest Utah consumer complaint? Those offers that never deliver

Published: Monday, March 4 2013 4:25 p.m. MST

The Utah Division of Consumer Protection division released its annual "Top 10 Consumer Complaints" in conjunction with National Consumer Protection Week.

Marlena Telvick, PBS

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SALT LAKE CITY — Coaching services is the category that the Utah Division of Consumer Protection gets its most complaints about.

“Coaching services offering big profit promises remain an attractive pitch for consumers who end up losing thousands of dollars while chasing an offer that never delivers,“ said division director Traci Gundersen.

That category represents 26 percent of the total complaints received by the division last year.

The division released its annual “Top 10 Consumer Complaints” in conjunction with National Consumer Protection Week. The division also highlighted the Federal Trade Commission’s 2012 “Consumer Sentinel” report, which tracked Utah consumer complaints to the federal agency.

The Top 10 Consumer Complaints are:

Coaching services: These services are offered to purchasers of business opportunities that tend to cost many thousands of dollars more than the original business opportunity. Some of the deceptive practices common to this type of complaint are misrepresentation of potential earnings and the qualifications or experience of the coaches.

Deposits/refunds:  The deceptive practices that are common to this category include the failure to make refunds when required and the failure to disclose refund policies.

Retail sales: Common deceptive practices include the failure to deliver products during the time frame represented, providing a product or service that is only similar to the product or service purchased, but does not have the same qualities; the failure to honor warranties; and the failure to make refunds when required or disclose refund policies.

E-commerce/Internet offers: Among the most pervasive scams reported, con artists are able to use the Internet to exploit a consumer’s vulnerability. Some of the more common tactics used are the unauthorized debiting of a consumer’s bank account, the automatic billing of a monthly fee until notice of cancellation is received and the failure to provide any applicable right of rescission.

Model/talent/acting offers: Consumers are led to believe that their child is special and would make a great actor and they are pressured into purchasing costly classes and enter into contracts where fees are paid to the agency before any work is secured for the client.

Telemarketing: Scams involve telephone marketers who make misrepresentations to entice consumers to sign up for a product or service.

Personal services: Complaints reflect scams involving lawn care, television subscriber services, etc.

Alarm systems: Alarm systems are often sold door-to-door with aggressive sales tactics. In many instances, the company sells a new service as if it were an upgrade to an existing service resulting in the consumer being obligated to pay on two separate contracts.

Auto repairs/sales: Complaints include failure to disclose refund policies, failure to obtain the consumer’s express authorization prior to making repairs and unnecessary repairs. Sales complaints include misrepresentations in advertising, aggressive sales practices and making contracts with an incapacitated or vulnerable purchaser.

Home improvement/repair: Deceptive practices include the failure of the contractor to provide the service after receiving the consumer’s deposit; the failure of the contractor to honor warranties; the misrepresentation of the work of another as being the work of the contractor; and the refusal by the contractor to continue working until the consumer agrees to a higher price.

“Consumers of all ages remain the prime target for fraudsters who seek new ways to profit by deception,” warned Francine Giani, executive director of the Utah Department of Commerce. “Our division hopes that by sharing this list, Utahns will be aware of the scams circling our state and be able to protect their families against fraud.”

Visit www.ncpw.gov for more information on National Consumer Protection Week

Utah complaints to FTC

According to the 2012 Federal Trade Commission state-by-state “Consumer Sentinel” report, Utah consumers reported 9,907 complaints to the federal agency between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2012, in the following categories:

Rank/Top Complaints/Percentage

1) Debt collection 1,293 13%

2) Shop-at-home, catalog sales 768 8%

3) Banks and lenders 675 7%

4) Telephone and mobile services 629 6%

5) Internet services 556 6%

6) Imposter scams 548 6%

7) Auto-related complaints 533 5%

8) Money offers, counterfeit check scams 372 4%

9) Prizes, sweepstakes, lotteries 358 4%

10) Credit cards 310 3%

For more information or to file a consumer complaint, contact the Utah Division of Consumer Protection at 801-530-6601 or log onto www.consumerprotection.utah.gov

E-mail: jlee@deseretnews.com, Twitter: JasenLee1

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