District Consumers’ Most Common Concerns of 2022
By Adam Teitelbaum, Director of OAG's Office of Consumer Protection
At the Office of Attorney General (OAG), we stand up for consumers every day by fighting fraud and working to stop unlawful business practices. In 2015, OAG launched a dedicated Office of Consumer Protection, which receives consumer tips and complaints about deceptive and fraudulent business practices, provides a free service resolving consumer complaints without going to court, and holds businesses accountable by filing lawsuits when they break the law.
In 2022, OAG heard from thousands of consumers and as a result, opened 2,874 individual consumer complaints — the highest number to date. Through its free mediation service, OAG was able to return more than $582,000 directly to consumers. OAG also secured more than $7 million dollars in 2022 by enforcing DC’s consumer protection laws, including by successfully resolving of our lawsuits against rent-a-bank lenders Opportunity Financial and Elevate, online delivery services Instacart and Grubhub, and local home warranty scammer Express Homebuyers.
When consumers reach out to OAG with tips and complaints about deceptive and fraudulent business practices that helps us better protect our neighbors. To all of the consumers who submitted tips and complaints last year: thank you!
Most Common Consumer Concerns of 2022
- Identity Theft: OAG opened 713 complaints about identity theft, a staggering increase over past years. Identity theft can occur when a consumer’s personal data and physical documents are compromised, but recently, OAG has seen an uptick in complaints of identity theft occurring online through data breaches, “phishing,” and robocalls. Read our consumer alert about what to do if your identity is stolen.
- Banking and Lending: OAG opened 278 complaints about deceptive banking and lending practices. In the District, it is illegal to charge interest rates higher than 24%—but some bad actors take advantage of residents by charging them outrageously high rates many times higher than the legal limit. Consumers should be aware of the interest rate cap, which also applies to online Peer-2-Peer (P2P) lending apps, and let OAG know if you see banks charging illegal rates.
- Retail: OAG opened 277 complaints about retail business practices. OAG resolves retail issues on behalf of consumers everyday through its free Consumer Mediation program—such as overbilling issues related to internet and cable services, cellphones, and medical billing. If you need assistance with an overbilling issue or have other retail business practices concerns, submit a consumer complaint online.
- Housing Issues: OAG opened 223 complaints about consumer-related housing issues, such as security deposits not being returned, overpayment of rent, and misleading or inaccurate descriptions of building amenities. When there are serious housing conditions issues, OAG’s Office of Consumer Protection and OAG's Social Justice Section work together to enforce the law to demand lawful living conditions for residents, including safety and security improvements for tenants.
- Home Improvement/Construction/Repair: OAG opened 133 complaints regarding home improvement, construction, and repair services in the District. OAG has sued companies in some cases when there is a pattern or practice of illegal conduct. Consumers can protect themselves from home improvement scams by only hiring contractors with all of the necessary D.C. business licenses, look at reviews and recommendations, verify all permits before the work begins, and make sure a written contract is signed by both the consumer and contractor before submitting any payments.