SALT LAKE CITY — Consumers who bought a burglar alarm system in 2012 were far more likely to have complained about it than any other consumer industry in Utah.
For the year, the Better Business Bureau of Utah reported that it received more than 16,000 complaints in 2012, down 5 percent from 2011, and resolved nearly 77 percent of them.
The BBB compiled the list of top 10 industries for customer complaints for last year. The bureau's business reviews were viewed more than 1.9 million times — up nearly 15 percent over the previous year.
“While the number of complaints received has decreased, our resolution rate has slightly increased due to companies taking care of the complaints,” said Jane Driggs, BBB of Utah president and chief executive officer. “We hope that the increase in consumers accessing BBB business reviews indicates that consumers are checking first before they do business with any company.”
For the third straight year, complaints against alarm companies topped the list. The resolution rate for the alarm companies improved slightly to almost 97 percent, but the number of complaints rose more than 61 percent from the prior year.
It's an industry that continues to struggle with the type and number of complaints, mainly regarding sales issues, billing and contract renewal, Driggs explained.
The loan (mortgage) audits industry saw a 1,709 percent increase in complaints for the year — by far the largest year-over-year hike. The industry received numerous complaints because of large mailings by a firm that is now out of business, Driggs said.
The health and medical products industry remained high on the list. Those companies sold products that often made big promises — usually for weight loss or health improvement — and typically came with trial offers and hidden monthly fees that were not clearly explained, she said.
Consumers should read the small print so they are not surprised by a monthly fee, Driggs added.
Training program firms were also among the top complaint receivers. The programs, which often cost thousands of dollars, are the subject of complaints due to high fees and consumers being unable to achieve success as promised, the BBB report stated.
Also included in the top 10 was the emergency disaster preparedness equipment and supplies sector, which saw complaints rise 123 percent. Driggs said companies in that industry have a history of not responding to complaints.
Consumers should be extra careful when purchasing such products online as refund and exchange policies can be strict and the businesses may not always respond to and/or resolve concerns, she said. The industry had just 21.47 percent of complaints resolved.
BBB business reviews — formerly known as reliability reports — are issued on the more than 69,000 businesses in the bureau's database, providing available information on when a company began operation, the principal officer, basic contact and complaint information, and government actions, if applicable, as well as advertising review issues. The reviews offer grades ranging from A-plus to F based on various factors.
The BBB of Utah handles only complaints on companies based in the Beehive State. Other complaints are forwarded and processed by bureaus where the company is headquartered. With 114 bureaus across the U.S. and Canada, the BBB is not a government agency and does not have enforcement power.
Since companies are not required to respond, bureaus can only encourage companies to address consumer complaints and work to resolve the individual matters.
However, all complaints made against companies within BBB purview are made known to the public in bureau business reviews, the report stated.
BBB business reviews are available for free at utah.bbb.org/Business-Search/.
Consumers wishing to file a complaint with the Utah Division of Consumer Protection may log on to their website at www.dcp.utah.gov or call (801) 530-6601. To determine if a professional holds a valid license or faced prior disciplinary action, log on to the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing website at www.dopl.utah.gov or call (801) 530-6626.