Earlier this week, the Council of Better Business Bureau released the top complaint stats of 2015.
The best known BBB services – complaints, investigations, ad review, and mediation – were stable, but BBB saw a big increase in consumers interacting with the organization online:
- Inquiries, when consumers look up individual businesses, were up 4.3% to an all-time high of 172.8 million.
- Published Customer Reviews topped 214,000. BBB only publishes Customer Reviews when it can verify that the reviewer is an actual customer of the business; about a third go unpublished.
- Reports to BBB Scam Tracker, a new service introduced in 2015, topped 13,000 in just a few months.
The only significant decrease in services was reflected in the category called “General Assistance, Counseling and Industry Information,” which was down by about 10 percent. A large portion of this category is phone calls to local BBB offices.
“This decrease was no surprise,” noted Rubens Pessanha, Director of Market Research and Insights for the Council of Better Business Bureaus. “We consumers love our phones but we are using them differently; data and text use go up every year. We talk to our family and friends, but to get information, more of us – especially Millennials – would rather interact online than place a phone call. As the Millennial generation moves into their prime purchasing years, we expect this trend to continue… although you can still reach a helpful person at BBB when you need one.”
BBB saw a huge increase in media coverage, from 151,000 mentions in the top 115 media markets in 2014 to 243,000 mentions in 2015. The announcement of BBB Scam Tracker helped fuel that increase.
BBB’s free dispute resolutions services continue to be core to its mission to enhance marketplace trust. In 2015, the top ten industries that received categories were the same as 2014, although the order shifted a bit.
|Complaint Category (Industry)||2015 Total||2014 Total||2014 Rank||Increase/
|#1 Cellular Telephone Service & Supplies||35,921||33,199||#1||+ 8.2%|
|#2 Telephone Communications||28,315||29,659||#2||– 4.75%|
|#3 Auto Dealers – New Cars||26,567||25,568||#4||+ 3.82%|
|#4 Television – Cable, CATV & Satellite||26,111||27,585||#3||-5.34%|
|#5 Collection Agencies||19,779||21,576||#5||-8.3%|
|#6 Auto Dealers – Used Cars||16,805||16,571||#6||+1.4%|
|#7 Furniture – Retail||14,433||12,779||#8||+12.9%|
|#9 Internet Shopping||10,476||12,936||#7||-19%|
|#10 Auto Repair & Service||9,653||10,474||#10||-7.8%|
|Total for all Industries||870,246||873,208||-0.34%|
The total number of complaints fell by a small fraction (0.3%). As is usually the case, the top complaints are mostly things people have and use every day, such as cell phones, cable TV, cars, banks, and furniture. The biggest change was a 12.9% increase in complaints against furniture retailers.
“The furniture industry saw 5% growth in 2015, so that explains part of the increase,” said Pessanha. “More than half of the complaints to BBB had to do with the products themselves: the quality, delivery, guarantees, and refunds and exchanges. The good news is that the industry has a respectable rate of settling BBB complaints… 85%. That’s better than the overall average of 79% across all industries.”
The biggest decrease in complaints was about Internet shopping, which fell 19%, dropping from #7 to #9 on the list and accounting for nearly the total decrease in all complaints to BBB last year. “We hope this is because online retailers are focusing on good customer service and on-time delivery,” said Pessanha. “Consumers notice that kind of improvement. This is a trend we would like to see continue in future years.”
The only category in the top ten that is not an everyday consumer purchase is collection agencies, which remained at #5 but saw an 8.3% drop in complaints. “No one who is dealing with a debt collector is happy about it, so it is not a surprise that we see so many complaints,” said Pessanha. “We are pleased to see the significant drop and encourage the industry to keep moving in that direction.”
Although the top industries for complaints are common goods and services that consumers use every day, the top ten industries for inquiries (visits to bbb.org to look up businesses) tend to be infrequent and high-ticket items, particularly those related to home maintenance and automobiles. The full statistical report for both complaints and inquiries can be accessed online at go.bbb.org/2015complaintstats.