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Last month, the Consumer Federation of America published a list of their top ten consumer complaints. In it, they named many of the issues that the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulations keeps consumers informed about, ranging from auto complaints to fraud and scams.

The Office of Consumer Affairs also releases an annual list of the Top 5 Massachusetts Consumer Issues. In 2013, our top five issues were related to insurance, auto, telephone service, cable service, and home improvement contractors. Here are some of the OCA’s most-common complaints that also made the CFA’s list, with advice on how to deal with them:

  • Home Improvement: For consumers seeking to contract a professional for home improvement projects, it is important to know that the contractor is licensed or registered in Massachusetts.  This minimizes the risk of project abandonment, deposit disputes, and permit issues. The Office of Consumer Affairs and the Division of Professional Licensure oversee the licensing and registration of home improvement contractors. HIC licenses can be checked on the DPL website. Additionally, the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation makes registration information available to Massachusetts consumers at this page, as well as over the phone at our Consumer Hotline: (888) 283-2757.
  • Auto: The Office of Consumer Affairs advises consumers on many auto-related concerns, including understanding Lemon Laws, handling auto repair and insurance, and the licensing of auto body repair shops. With such a multifaceted topic, it is no surprise that these issues appeared on both lists. Massachusetts consumers can find out if they are qualified under the Lemon Laws using our online tool on the OCA website. On the OCA website, consumers should also learn about their rights when dealing auto repair shops. And for help purchasing auto insurance, consumers can follow the instructions in this handy guide from the Division of Insurance.
  • Credit/Debt: Financial literacy is an essential skill necessary for consumers to make smart credit and banking decisions. The Division of Banks licenses debt collectors, mortgage lenders, and small loan companies. The DOB has an online tool to help consumers check the validity of any of these licensees. As Massachusetts consumers are still in recovery from the economic recession, it is critically important for consumers to understand consumer credit so that they do not fall by the wayside. This guide from the Attorney General’s Office contains useful information on all areas of consumer credit.

The Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation is available to provide consumers with information on these and other consumer issues through its Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in Massachusetts at (888) 283-3757. Representatives from OCABR and its five agencies will also be in Somerville on August 27 to speak to consumers directly at the Somerville Consumer/Shred Day.

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