Have you been duped, scammed or over charged for services? Have you hired no-show contractors or bought food already past its expiration date?
Then let's celebrate National Consumer Protection Week, when no American should be afraid to admit he or she has been a victim of a consumer injustice, large or small. This is the week consumers are educated, empowered and emboldened.
Nothing, however, instructs quite like the past. And last year, the Federal Trade Commission received more than 2 million consumer complaints, including 369,132 for identity theft and almost 200,000 for debt-collection issues.
"Con artists and unscrupulous business operators have been around for centuries," says the Connecticut Better Business Bureau's Howard Schwartz. "The difference in 2013, is that the risk is greater than ever."
The state Department of Consumer Protection is hoping to make it easier for Connecticut consumers to avoid scams, research a business' registration or license and, when necessary, file a complaint. The DCP this week launched a rebuilt website at http://www.smartconsumer.ct.gov that's easier to navigate, more informative and, yes, less stiffly governmental than its previous home.
"We hope that by putting out easy-to-find information, consumers can avoid some common problems, leading to more satisfied consumers and fewer complaints," says DCP Commissioner William M. Rubenstein."
Here's a look at last year's top complaints and scams, which might serve as both a preview and caution for 2013.
State DepartmentOf Consumer Protection
"We get complaints across the board, from alarm systems to work-at-home schemes," says DCP spokeswoman Claudette Carveth. "Therefore, the total number of complaints is spread out over a great many areas."
That explains why none of the Top 10 received more than 750 complaints, she says.
>> Fuel price ("Always when prices go up," says Carveth.)
>> Free air
>> Gas pump operation
>> Propane delivery
"The Federal Trade Commission is aware of the issue of continued telemarketing calls that are impossible to trace," says Carveth. "It is working on a technological solution."
3.Home Improvement/New Home
>> Failure to complete work
>> Quality of materials