According to an annual report released today by Better Business Bureau, consumers filed 891,540 complaints against North American businesses in 2008, reflecting a seven percent increase over the previous year.
“While BBB saw a seven percent increase in complaints, we also experienced a 15 percent increase in requests from consumers for pre-purchase information on the reliability of businesses,” said Steve Cox, National BBB spokesperson. “Given the current economic recession, consumers are being more cautious on where and how they spend their money and are looking for objective information that helps them easily and quickly make informed decisions on the reliability of businesses.”
The cell phone industry received the largest number of complaints with 36,710, a nine percent increase over last year. New car dealers ranked second with 27,555 complaints and also saw a nine percent increase. Rounding out the top three, banks received 21,021 complaints, an increase of 15 percent.
While the cell phone industry, new car dealers and banks received a high volume of complaints, the BBB report shows that they also have a higher rate of resolution with consumers than the average rate (73 percent) across all industries in 2008. Cell phone companies resolved 92 percent of complaints, new car dealers resolved 82 percent, and banks resolved 96 percent.
“Industries that do a large volume of business are naturally going to have a larger number of complaints. This is why it’s important to look at how a company responded when BBB approached them with consumer complaints, and not just the sheer number of complaints,” added Cox.
Out of the top ten industries by volume of complaints, used car dealers and banks experienced the most significant increase in complaints over last year. Complaints about used car dealers increased 18 percent and complaints against banks increased by 15 percent. The increase in complaints corresponds with a decline in the amount of trust consumers have in these industries as determined by the BBB/Gallup Trust in Business Index. Released in 2008, the Index survey found that consumer trust in auto dealers and banks had declined considerably from late 2007 into the second quarter of 2008. To find out how other industries fared in the BBB/Gallup Trust in Business Index go to www.bbb.org/trustindex.
Of the top 10 industries for complaints, only two saw a decrease in complaints. Complaints against Internet services decreased by 16 percent and complaints against furniture stores decreased by 3 percent.
The report also reveals that BBB Reliability Reports—which are available online for free and contain information on a businesses’ accreditation status, letter-grade rating and complaint history—are increasingly popular as a free tool for consumers to research the trustworthiness of businesses. The four million reliability reports maintained by BBB on businesses across North America were accessed more than 63 million times in 2008, a 15 percent increase over the previous year. The most popular industries researched through BBB are roofing contractors, general contractors, and movers.
Following are the top 10 industries by volume of consumer complaints filed across North America with BBB in 2008:
For a complete industry breakdown of all complaints filed with the BBB in 2008 go to www.us.bbb.org/statistics.
BBB is an unbiased non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Businesses that earn BBB accreditation contractually agree and adhere to the organization’s high standards of ethical business behavior. BBB provides objective advice, free business BBB Reliability ReportsTM and charity BBB Wise Giving ReportsTM, and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. To further promote trust, BBB also offers complaint and dispute resolution support for consumers and businesses when there is difference in viewpoints. The first BBB was founded in 1912. Today, 125 BBBs serve communities across the U.S. and Canada, evaluating and monitoring more than four million local and national businesses and charities. Please visit www.bbb.org for more information about BBB.