NEWARK – The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, along with other agencies nationwide, are marking Sunday’s kickoff to National Consumer Protection Week (“NCPW”) by releasing the top ten list of consumer complaints from 2022. National Consumer Protection Week is a coordinated campaign between state and federal agencies that encourages consumers nationwide to take full advantage of their rights and make better-informed decisions. NCPW 2023 is taking place from March 5 through March 11, 2023.
In 2022, the Division’s Office of Consumer Protection (“OCP”) received a total of 18,084 complaints. Complaints regarding motor vehicle sales and repairs once again topped the list with 2,514. Home improvement came in second with 2,310 complaints followed by major appliances with 1,080. Internet sales, medical care, moving and storage, professional and occupational services, stores, credit and finally gasoline rounded out the top ten. The top three categories made up nearly one third of all complaints received and accounted for 65% of all complaints in the top ten categories.
“The Division of Consumer Affairs is a crucial part to the everyday lives of New Jersey residents by enforcing consumer protection laws and educating the public to avoid fraud,” said Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin “Consumer complaints alert DCA on who is violating those laws and what patterns of fraud are emerging in the marketplace.”
“The complaints we receive each year help the Division set its priorities and deploy its resources to best serve New Jersey’s consumers,” said Cari Fais, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “Our public outreach campaigns and enforcement initiatives are guided by the complaints we receive, and the information consumers provide to us.”
In 2022, the Division initiated or resolved a variety of motor vehicle related investigations, the top consumer complaint category for 2022. These cases involve predatory towing, automotive repairs, car sales, and auto-parts pricing. Among other things, last year DCA reached significant settlements with nine car dealerships totaling more than $650,000 throughout the State. The dealerships’ alleged violations include failing to list prior accidents, damage, and repairs made to vehicles; failing to honor the advertised price of a used car; charging excessive vehicle preparation fees; failing to disclose the full sale price of a motor vehicle; and deceptive advertising.
OCP typically receives over 1,000 new complaints every month through its online portal. Staff review each complaint to determine whether it alleges a violation of our consumer protection laws, and whether it should be referred to a unit within OCP, another part of the Division, or another agency. OCP may open a formal investigation, which could lead to an administrative or civil court filing. OCP also may attempt to informally mediate a resolution between a consumer and a merchant without the need for a formal filing. Other matters may be handled by formal mediation or arbitration through the Division’s Alternative Dispute Resolution Program.
Throughout the week, more information on each top-ten category will be posted to the Division of Consumer Affairs’ Twitter and Facebook pages, along with information on how consumers can protect themselves.
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file an online complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504- 6200.
The mission of the Division of Consumer Affairs, within the Department of Law and Public Safety, is to protect the public from fraud, deceit, misrepresentation and professional misconduct in the sale of goods and services in New Jersey through education, advocacy, regulation and enforcement. The Division pursues its mission through its 51 professional and occupational boards that oversee 720,000 licensees in the state, its Regulated Business section that oversees 60,000 NJ registered businesses, as well as through its Office of Consumer Protection, Bureau of Securities, Charities Registration section, Office of Weights and Measures, and Legalized Games of Chance section.