10 Types of Businesses That Get the Most Customer Complaints

Source: iStock
Source: iStock

In 2015, the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB), the umbrella organization for 112 BBBs across North America, released its annual ranking of companies generating the most customer complaints. Internet, TV, cable, and phone services have been hitting new lows in terms of customer satisfaction, so it’s no surprise these industries topped BBB’s list for 2014.

The order of top 10 industries by volume of complaints remained unchanged from 2013, but overall complaints were down about 5%. According to BBB, the drop in complaints is related to the increase in inquiries via BBB (checking out a business first rather than complaining later) and the introduction of customer reviews. Some customers are now choosing to leave a review rather than file a complaint, especially when no refund is expected. Below you’ll find BBB’s chart outlining the top 10 industries and how the number of complaints for each compares to the previous year.

Complaints chart BBB
Source: The Council of Better Business Bureaus, bbb.org, published 2015

Most of the industries ranking highly in terms of complaints are related to common goods and services consumers use every day, such as phones, TV, the Internet, banks, and autos. In many cases, the complaints were settled with the help of BBB’s dispute resolution services. According to the full statistical report, there were 873,208 customer complaints filed in 2014, and 78% of those complaints were settled. Among the top 10 complained-about industries, the worst in terms of settling complaints were auto repair and service (67% of complaints settled) and used car dealers (74% settled).

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) also ranks industries by complaints in its Consumer Response Annual Report, shedding more light on the most problematic businesses for customers. While the federal agency collects fewer complaints by sheer volume than the BBB, the CFPB has certain limits on the type of complaint. The CFPB only deals with the following 11 categories: bank account or service, credit card, credit reporting, debt collection, money transfer, mortgage, other financial service, payday loan, prepaid card, student loan, and auto/consumer loan.

And these are undoubtedly some of the most important industries to scrutinize.

CFPB complaints zoom
Source: “Consumer Response Annual Report” by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, published 2015

Between January 1, 2014 and December 31, 2014, the CFPB received approximately 250,700 consumer complaints. According to CFPB’s data, the worst offenders for 2014 were debt collectors, mortgage lenders, and credit reporting agencies. In 2013, the rankings of the top two industries, debt collection and mortgage, were reversed.

Approximately 62% of all 2014 complaints were sent by Consumer Response to companies for review and response, and the resulting settlements varied, sometimes closing with monetary relief, non-monetary relief, an explanation, or nothing at all. Many companies simply failed to provide a timely response. For the full results of how companies dealt with these complaints, as well as rankings compared to 2013 and detailed information concerning each industry, see the full report. You can also check out the CFPB’s monthly complaint report for the most timely insights.
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