Complaints about home mortgages, debt collection topped the list in the last year for the Consumer Protection Division of the Iowa Attorney General’s office. Bill Brauch leads the division and says over 300 of the complaints to his office involved home mortgages and 171 involved debt collection. “There’s been great consistency in the last several years in the numbers of complaints and the complaint areas with home mortgages being number one and debt collection number two. I think maybe once in the last five years they switched positions,” Brauch says. “The bottom line is, having those as the top two was not a surprise to us.”
The total number of complaints did drop 10-percent last year to under 3,000. Complaints about cars were third on the list. “There are just a host of issues there, these are not car repairs, these are mostly car purchase issues,” according to Brauch. That includes things like a car that may have been in a major wreck was fixed up and then sold the buyer without disclosure, or dealers charging fees that were not disclosed.
Brauch says they try to find out as much as they can before taking any action on a complaint. “Standard practice is for us to make a copy of the complaint and send it the complained against party and ask them to respond. We really want to see both sides of the complaint before deciding what we might do,” Brauch says. He says they try to work things out before starting the legal process. Brauch says they might try informal mediation to try and work out the problem and get a refund or something like that. “We do not have the authority to order anybody to do anything in particular. If want to require something to be done, we would have to sue somebody and go to court,” Brauch explains.
People are encouraged to seek a solution themselves before contacting the office. “We always encourage consumers to take it back to the business and try work it out themselves, that is always the fastest and most effective way of dealing with things,” Brauch says. “And sometimes consumers do that and then file a complaint. And sometimes they come right to us.”
If you have questions or complaints you can contact the Consumer Protection Division through the Attorney General’s website at: www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.gov. Or you can call 1-888-777-4590.