Letitia James, New York's attorney general.

Letitia James, New York's attorney general. Credit: Bloomberg/Jeenah Moon

Got a complaint?

New York Attorney General Letitia James said you are not alone, kicking off National Consumer Protection Week on Monday with the release of the top 10 consumer complaints received by her office in 2023.

Topping the list with more than 5,500 complaints were retail sales issues, including price-gouging, defective merchandise, poor customer service — and, of note to animal lovers — problems with pet stores and animal breeders.

Rounding out the Top 5 were landlord-tenant issues; complaints related to auto sales, service, financing and repair services; debt collection, credit, banking and mortgage industry scams; and varied consumer services. Among them are complaints involving restaurants, movers, storage facilities, household services and dry cleaners.

“As always, I urge New Yorkers to stay vigilant, and to keep my office informed about scams and violations of consumer protection laws,” James said in a statement.

The Top 5 categories accounted for a total of 18,936 complaints filed with the Office of the Attorney General in 2023. The next five categories accounted for another 7,269 complaints filed last year, the attorney general’s office said.

Stacey Finkelstein, a marketing professor in the College of Business at Stony Brook University, said in the modern age, many angry consumers air their gripes about a business on social media. Taking the extra step to file an official complaint, she said, can be cumbersome but may result in a better outcome.

“It could have to do with trust and feeling like the complaint will reach a satisfying resolution,” she said. “ … When someone is filing a complaint, it's because they feel [the business] violated some expectation for an internal contract people have with a company they are buying from. When consumers purchase goods, they generally expect for things to reflect the value that they are paying for.” 

The five categories rounding out the top 10 included complaints related to internet services and service providers, data security and internet fraud; utilities; and home repair and home improvement contractors.

The top 10 also included travel including airline customer service, flight cancellations and refunds; and entertainment industry complaints, including ticket sales, events and concerts, James said.

The attorney general’s office warned consumers to beware of online and in-person scammers and to “check out the individual seller’s history and their rating,” as well as shipping fees, negative reviews, complaints, refund and return policies before making a purchase.

“Always use safe payment methods like a credit card,” the attorney general’s office said. “Never pay with wire transfers, gift cards, or cash reload cards.” And, the office warned, never buy from a seller who wants you to pay outside the marketplace payment system.

James also reminds consumers that a landlord must return your security deposit within 14 days of you moving out and, if a landlord takes money from that deposit to pay for damages, he or she must provide an itemized receipt describing the damage and repair cost.

There are many options for consumers when it comes to specific types of complaints, redress possibilities and how the attorney general’s office can help consumers identify and resolve problems.

For more information, residents can call the attorney general’s complaint hotline number at 800-771-7755. They can file a complaint online at ag.ny.gov/file-complaint/consumer or can access online resources through that email link and then go to resources available to individuals or organizations.

Topics include everything from information about Lemon Law protection to consumer frauds and deceptive advertising. 

With Robert Brodsky

Top 10 consumer complaints

1. Retail sales — Online purchases, price gouging, retail sales, defective merchandise, poor customer service, pet stores, and animal breeders

2. Landlord/tenant — Security deposit releases, evictions, tenant-harassment

3. Automobile — Sales, service, financing, repairs

4. Credit, banking, and mortgages — Debt collection, credit card billing, debt settlement, payday loans, credit repair, credit reporting agencies, identity theft, banking, loan modification scams, mortgage lending and servicing

5. Consumer services — Alarm companies, dry cleaners, restaurants, movers, storage facilities, services for personal or household use

6. Internet — Internet services and service providers, data privacy and security, digital media, frauds through internet manipulation

7. Utilities — Wireless and residential phones, energy servicers and suppliers, cable, and satellite

8. Home repair/improvement — Repair issues, deceitful contractors, solar panel installations

9. Travel — Airline customer service, flight cancellations and refunds

10. Entertainment — Events, concerts, ticket sales

Source: Office of the New York State Attorney General

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