Tuesday

More complaints are made about car dealers and car problems than anything else

Welcome to my world. According to the latest survey from the Consumer Federation of America (and a couple of other consumer agencies, NACAA and NACPI), the biggest complaint that consumers have is about their cars and car dealers - everything from dealers who cheat them to lemons and bad repairs and advertisements that mislead readers. Surprise, surprise.

31 agencies from 18 different states were surveyed and asked about the most common and fastest growing and worst complaints they had seen in the last year. And car-related problems came out on top.

A whopping quarter million car-related complaints were logged last year and over $208 million was recovered in restitution for consumers.

And outright fraud is now one of the top ten consumer complaints - often from scammers that operate outside of the US borders - making it far more difficult to track down the thieves and recover stolen funds. Such ripoff artists now take advantage of internet sales schemes that enable them to pick the pockets of American consumers far more easily than ever before.

Here's the top ten categories of consumer complaints:
1. Auto - misrepresentations in advertising and sales of both new and used cars, lemons, bad repair jobs, etc.
2. Credit and Debt - billing and fee disputes, mortgage fraud, credit repair scams, debt relief ripoffs, predatory lending schemes, abusive and illegal debt collection tactics
3. (tie) Home Improvement Companies and Shady Retail Sellers - home improvement companies who perform bad work or take the money and don't even start (or finish) the job. With retail sellers, consumers are complaining more than ever about false advertising and deceptive ads and merchandise, rebates that never get paid, and goods that never get delivered
4. Utilities - billing disputes with phone, cable, satellite, internet, and gas and electric companies continue to rise
5. Consumer Services - misrepresentations continue to rise, shoddy work, unlicensed service providers and providers who take the money and don't do the work or deliver the goods at all
6. Internet Sales - deceptive ads on the internet continue to bilk consumers out of millions of dollars, sometimes never delivering paid for goods at all
7. Household Goods - more misrepresentations and failure to deliver complains, along with bad repairs of appliances and furniture
8. Landlord-Tenant - unsafe and unhealthy living conditions and failure to make repairs and refund deposits continue to rise
9. Outright FRAUD - new to the top 10 list this year, bogus sweepstakes and lotteries that are just a scam, work at home schemes also rip off consumers
10. Home solicitations - door to door and telemarketing and mail solicitations continue to rip off consumers, including do not call violations

It's not nice out there, folks. So be extra careful in dealing with anyone who wants your money. Especially over the phone or the internet or at your front door. Fraud happens. And Car Sales Fraud happens more than ever.

When it happens to you, if you can't get it straightened out, call us. Helping the victims of consumer fraud cases, especially car sales fraud, get their money back - that is what we do. And consumer protection laws almost always give you the right to make the fraudsters pay your attorney fees too.

Burdge Law Office
Helping consumers get even for over 30 years

Friday

Is Saab going, going, gone? Rumors of near-bankruptcy circulate

Is Saab going, going, gone? Rumors of near-bankruptcy circulate as Saab delayed its release of the first half 2011 financial report which, obviously, will likely be printed with red ink.

News reports say Saab missed another payroll and its suppliers still refuse to provide the parts Saab needs to build cars.You have to know that the few Saab dealers that are left out there are making plans to move on. One dealer reported remarked that they were no longer going to support Saab "after learning that Saab board members received pay increases recently, even as the rest of the staff waited for their checks," according to TheDetroitBureau.com.

If you own a Saab car or suv, now might be the best time to get rid of it or, at the very least, plan on not having anyone willing to do any warranty work on it. But then again, that's probably already a problem you have been dealing with.

Burdge Law Office
Because life's too short to drive a lemon

Thursday

Saab troubles continue as asset seizure nears

It's a sad story for Saab owners around the world. The only vehicle actually being built right now is reportedly just the 9-4X Suv model with the rest of the Saab model line on hold while every day is undoubtedly causing heartburn in the board room.

While Chinese (and other? the Russian banker Vladimer Antonov?) investors promise millions in badly needed support money to keep the Swedish maker going, time is running out while the Chinese struggle with their bureaucratic red tape that prevents money from flowing to Sweden. By the time it does, it may be too late. Reportedly unpaid suppliers are owed $625,000 and the government is threatening to simply being the legal process of seizing the Saab assets. If that happens, the company would very likely fold.

Meanwhile Saab dealers have little in the way of inventory. Saab itself is building very little. And without vehicle shipments occurring, the money is running out.

Swedish Enforcement Agency representatives, who are the ones in the government who would do the asset seizure, have now publicly said that they have contacted Saab's banks - the first step in the process that could spell Saab's demise and that could come at any moment.

Millions of dollars in payroll is due to be paid out this week and that could well drain the bank account to near nothing status.

We certainly wish no car maker ill, but Saab certainly already has its share. If you haven't figured it out yet, now is probably not a good time to buy a Saab.

Burdge Law Office
Because life's too short to drive a lemon.

Monday

When car designs were art, and it wasn't that long ago, they were cool. Chevy's billboards show off old art

There's a great set of billboard art that is making the internet rounds. Don't know if they are actual billboard signs up in Detroit - but they should be. The one's we've seen are all Chevy and - like a rock - that kind of makes sense.

Part of Detroit's continuing problem is just an inability to get their quality up to where the Asian factories are. We used to say the Germans, but what we have seen of their quality in the last few years is, well, falling short of their traditionally high marks.

Perhaps a bigger part of Detroit's marketing problem though is that very few cars coming out of Detroit look cool anymore. They have turned, for the most part, into homogenized boxes on wheels.

Nowadays Chrysler talks the talk with their new line of commercials (imported from Detroit, etc), but their cars just don't look cool and reviewers are still lukewarm on them too. That's not to pick on them either because GM has the same problem and if you take away the Mustang (and some would say you can leave it) then Ford still struggles to find the right combination of cool and quality.

But once, they were art. It may be that the Chevy design team held out longer than most others and the billboard signs like this one show that they know it. And there was, once upon a time, lots of cars that were works of art, some of which Richard Solomon has pics of and wrote about on his blog. The car guys at MindOverMatter have written about them and also posted some classic pics.

When Detroit figures out how to strike the balance of coolness, quality, and economy again - in that order - they'll get buyers back in their showroom again, lots of them. Owning a car is, for most folks, as much an emotional decision as anything else. Some would say it's more that than anything else.

Every year people flock to Woodward Avenue for the annual cruise of classic cars that, for the most part, are rolling art. Those cars show that once upon a time, no one could beat what Detroit was building. Detroit built cars that were America.

Detroit will probably get back there someday but for now, in this marketplace, one thing's still for sure. If it ain't cool, no one's driving it - no matter how well built it is and no matter how many miles per gallon it may get. Now if only Detroit would realize it.

Yeah, we do lemon motor vehicle work for a living, but we can't help but love cars too. We know that there's nothing like the feeling you get when you're driving a car that looks great, runs right, and doesn't cost an arm and a leg to go down the road. And art that just sits there and hangs on a wall just isn't as much fun.

We've got that same love affair with cars that everyone else has too - we just want them to run right all the time. Getting rid of the bads ones is what we do. It's kind of like wanting to put the fun back into owning and driving a car again.

Burdge Law Office
Because life's too short to drive a lemon - even a good looking one.