Customers who aren’t satisfied with how a business transaction unfolds have the option of contacting the Attorney General’s Office for assistance. It’s one of the ways we protect Ohio families and consumers.
We strive to resolve consumer complaints with a service-oriented approach and, every year, we identify the top categories of complaints. In many cases, complaints are the result of a misunderstanding, and we try to bring both sides together to solve the problem.
We generally handle complaints through our office’s dispute resolution process in which we work with both the consumer and the business to resolve the issue. From 2013 through 2017, over $12.6 million was adjusted or recovered for Ohio consumers through this process.
After analyzing all the consumer complaints we fielded during 2017, the top categories were: Used car sales, shopping online and in stores, cable or cable bundling, collection calls, identity theft, requests for assistance, wireless phone services, vehicle repairs, appliances, renting and landlords and new car sales.
Since 2011, we’ve taken in over 189,000 complaints. The categories of complaints we receive most frequently have remained familiar through the years, and those involving motor vehicles have consistently topped the list. A new category, Identity Theft, first cracked the top list of consumer complaints in 2014. In response to the rise of identity theft reports, we established an Identity Theft Unit in 2012 and, since then, we’ve helped thousands of identity theft victims eliminate approximately $2 million in fraudulent charges.
We’ve also taken steps to inform and alert Ohioans about risks to consumers. For example, our Consumer Protection Sections periodically holds workshops around Ohio, which have helped tens of thousands of Ohioans learn about potential fraud and scams. My office also launched the multimedia “Ohio Protects” campaign to increase Ohioans’ awareness of scams, fraud, and identity theft and how to protect themselves.
Here are some examples of how we’ve protected Ohio consumers:
– Our Economic Crimes Unit helped prosecute a Cincinnati-area man who contacted consumers at their homes, claimed their roofs were damaged, and encouraged them to file an insurance claim. He was sentenced to two years in prison and ordered to pay $104,000 in restitution after accepting their money and then failing to provide any services. He had scammed 24 homeowners in multiple counties between 2014 and 2015.
– An elderly consumer bought gift cards from an electronics store and unknowingly sent them on to scammers. The consumer contacted the store’s fraud department to cancel the cards and then contacted our office because he was concerned that his money would not be refunded. We worked with the store’s fraud department, who traced the gift card numbers and determined that the cards had been redeemed. The consumer, however, contacted them before that happened, and through our efforts, the consumer was refunded $4,500.
– A college student ordered eight luxury coach buses for an upcoming trip through a charter bus company and made a $1,049 down payment with his credit card. A few days later, the consumer sent an additional payment of $8,120 in a check which the bus company cashed. About three days before the trip, the consumer learned that the bus company didn’t have enough drivers due to a double-booking status. He learned that the company wouldn’t provide the buses unless he paid an additional $1,450 per bus. The consumer contacted our office and, through our efforts, received a full refund of his down payment with an apology from the company.
Whether a conflict between an Ohio consumer and a business is a local dispute or crosses state lines, my office will work to help resolve the issue. For more information or to file a complaint, call us at 800-282-0515 or visit www.OhioProtects.org.
Mike DeWine is Ohio’s Attorney General and guest columnist.