AG DONOVAN ANNOUNCES TOP 10 CONSUMER COMPLAINTS OF 2021

BURLINGTON – In recognition of National Consumer Protection Week, Attorney General T.J. Donovan announced the top 10 consumer complaints received by the Consumer Assistance Program (CAP) in 2021. CAP, a partnership between the Attorney General’s Office and the University of Vermont, offers a free mediation service for Vermont consumers, including small businesses. In 2021, CAP received 1,173 complaints and recovered more than $240,000 for Vermont consumers. Claiming the list’s top spots are complaints involving vehicles, retail, and home improvement, respectively – representing approximately 44 percent of all complaints filed.           

“I want to thank CAP for the services they provide to Vermonters. Whether they are resolving a consumer complaint, helping a Vermonter get a refund, or providing guidance to a victim of identity theft, CAP is always there to help. I encourage all Vermonters with a consumer complaint to reach out to CAP for assistance.

Attorney General T.J. Donovan

 The following are the top 10 consumer complaints received by CAP in 2021:

RankConsumer Complaint IssueNumber of Complaints
1Motorized Vehicles Common issues included defective merchandise; failure of state inspection; misrepresentation; and unsatisfactory service/repair.199    
2Retail Common issues included failure to deliver; refund policy/refund disputes; defective merchandise; and unsatisfactory service.187
3Home Improvements Common issues included unsatisfactory service/repair; criminal home improvement fraud concerns; failure to perform; improper installation; and deposit refund dispute.132  
4Health/Medical Common issues included unauthorized billing; excessive estimate/charge; and defective merchandise.83  
5Fuel Common issues included pricing complaints; refund delays; propane tank removal delays; billing disputes; contract disputes; and safety concerns.81
6Housing and Real Estate Common issues included landlord-tenant issues; security deposit disputes; and warranty of habitability disputes.77
7Banking, Credit and Finance Common issues included debt collection; credit reporting disputes; and financing/loan issues.67
8Home Furnishings Common issue included defective merchandise, often involving new appliances.59
9Athletics Common issues included refund policy disputes for seasonal passes, and failure to deliver services.30
10Delivery, Moving and Storage Common issue included delayed deliveries.29
CAP’s Top 10 Consumer Complaints of 2021

            Though not represented in the list of consumer complaints, scams continue to be of concern to Vermonters. Earlier this year, Attorney General Donovan released the top 10 scams reported to CAP. In 2021, CAP received 5,154 scam reports, up slightly from the previous year. New twists on old scams involving computer tech support and fraudulent online listings represented nearly a quarter of all reports filed by Vermonters. More information on stopping scams is available at ago.vermont.gov/cap/stopping-scams/.

            CAP offers a free mediation service to all Vermont consumers, including small businesses. If you are a consumer in need of assistance, please contact CAP by calling 1-800-649-2424 or visiting ago.vermont.gov/cap.

Free COVID-19 Test-Kit Scams

By Crystal Baldwin and Cristina Leiva

A National Consumer Protection Week feature and second in a Two-Part Series on COVID-19 Test Kits. “National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW) is a time to help people understand their consumer rights and avoid frauds and scams” (FTC). 

Earlier this week, it was announced that Americans can order more free at-home COVID-19 tests from the U.S. government at COVIDtests.gov. This second round of tests are available for free through COVIDtests.gov. There are no shipping costs, and you don’t have to give a credit card or bank account number. You only need to give a name and address. Once you place an order, you’ll get an order confirmation number. If you give your email address, you’ll also get an order confirmation email and delivery updates. Anyone who asks for more information than that is a scammer.


Don’t get scammed when doing your part to get tested!

Scammers love when things are offered for free because they can quickly create a website making the same claim, while requiring personal information and payment for additional charges like “shipping/handling” or “expediting” or “priority service”. They seize the opportunity to cash in when emotions are high—which is the case when trying to stay healthy amid a global pandemic.   

COVID-19 TEST-KIT SCAM ALERT: Unsolicited requests for your health insurance information, phony offers for FREE test kits asking for payment, Peer-to-peer sellers.
COVID-19 Test-Kit Scam Alert by CAP

COVID-19 Test Kit Scams Might Look Like:

  • Unsolicited requests for your health insurance information, such as Medicare, in exchange for free test kits.
  • Phony offers of FREE test kits with payment required, such as for shipping/handling.
  • Peer-to-peer sellers: Friends, family, neighbors and others on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist and other listing sites.
  • Unreputable vendors in retail pop-up shops or online.
  • The sale of invalid COVID-19 test kits.
  • Unsolicited offers to obtain free test kits, such as through telemarketing, email, and other unverified channels.

Hang up on solicitations claiming to offer free test kits in exchange for your personal information, insurance, or money! If you are looking for free test kits, seek them out through valid sources outlined in the Consumer Assistance Program’s free COVID-19 test kits blog.

Look out for these red flags:

  • Requests to pay a fee for free tests.
  • Claims of expedited delivery with additional payment.
  • Receiving results after you sign up and pay, but before you’ve been tested.
  • Tests that are not FDA authorized.

If you have encountered a free COVID-19 test scam, report it to the Consumer Assistance Program (CAP) through CAP’s online scam reporting form.  

Regarding COVID-19 updates and information, the best place in Vermont to check is the Vermont Department of Health.

Resources: COVIDtests.gov, Vermont Department of Health

Wretched Robocalls 

By Crystal Baldwin  

A National Consumer Protection Week feature. “National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW) is a time to help people understand their consumer rights and avoid frauds and scams” (FTC).

Ten years ago, the influx of scam calls through automation began. In two days, the Consumer Assistance Program (CAP), which traditionally logged around twenty scam reports per month, received hundreds of scam reports over two days. By the end of 2012, CAP averaged 145 scam reports per month. Of the first robocalls Vermonters reported were the card services scam, which claimed interest rates could be lowered on their bank credit cards. Next came claims of free gift cards from a specific retailer, who was offering nothing of the sort. What soon followed was a rush of new scams; claims that free life alert devices were available, the infamous IRS scam (responsible for 4,261 reports in 2016), which morphed into the SSN phishing scam, and countless others. Reports of scams have not dropped below the 5,000 mark since before 2015 in large part due to robocalls. After nearly a decade, it’s clear these calls are not going away on their own.   

While scam nature varies, the one thing these scams have in common is the criminal use of expanded phone technology. In short, scammers have learned how to manipulate our phone systems to make millions of unscrupulous calls per minute. As long as they continue to make money, they will continue to call with enticing offers and troubling spiels.  

How a Robocall Gets to You – Consumer Assistance Program – Learn more

Telltale signs of robocall scams: 

  • A computer/automated/robot voice 
  • Pressure to act immediately 
  • A request for something: your information/your money 

To the demise of the robocall scam industry, there are steps you can take as a consumer advocate to avoid these calls. By being aware and not engaging with these calls and making these scams less successful, you are doing your part to stop robocall scams. Learn more about stopping scams by opening the Blocking Unwanted Calls tab on CAP’s website. You can also listen to a previously recorded Vermont Edition about stopping and blocking robocalls.

Here’s what you can do when you receive an unknown call: 

  • Pause:  Take time to reflect – if a call is unexpected, disengage. 
  • Take steps to verify by making note of the contact and doing research, including checking a trusted source. 
  • Discuss scams with friends and loved ones regularly. Storytelling induces learning. The simple act of communicating with others about scams can help prevent others from becoming victims.  
  • Keep on reporting them. Our office has been part of a bipartisan taskforce of attorneys general and federal law enforcement to relieve consumers of unwanted calls. Your robocall reports are used to aid this taskforce in tracking down criminal syndicates. 

With the help of federal authorities and a large U.S. voice provider, our office has been able to track down US intermediaries and hold them accountable for sending scam calls to your phone. 

You can help stop robocalls by reporting them to the Consumer Assistance Program: CAP’s online scam reporting form.