For the fourth consecutive year, Consumer Direct reports that second-hand cars purchased from an independent dealer brought the most complaints. The service also responded to more than 1.5 million emails and telephone calls in 2009 (down four percent from 2008) and reported about 850,000complaints lodged against traders, representing a three percent decrease. Altogether, Consumer Direct handled 50,790 complaints related to second-hand cars sold by independent dealers, up by 8 per cent from 2008.

Complaints about TVs, which came in second, rose by nine per cent, and complaints related to mobile-phone service, which decreased by 29 per cent, came in third. Among the top ten categories listed, laptop complaints (which rose from 12,395 in the previous year to 17,611 in 2009) increased by 42 per cent. A majority of the complaints were related to goods and services that were purchased at the traders’ place of business, while 10 per cent involved telephone transactions.

Consumer Direct offers advice on settling disputes with a wide range of businesses and also informs people about their rights as consumers. This means that, very often, customer and merchant can deal directly with one another. When additional help is required, Consumer Direct refers callers to local authority Trading Standards Services or an agency that is in the best position to provide the assistance they need.

Local authority Trading Services, the OFT, and similar groups use the information Consumer Direct gathers to establish their priorities and determine how to focus their resources. Because the level of used-car complaints in 2009 was so high, this influenced the OFT’s decision to begin a market study of second-hand car sales last May, and the final report should be available in the spring. David Fisher, Director of Consumer Direct, also notes that the increase in complaints related to a product may be an indication of increased sales for that product, rather than a lowering of standards on the manufacturer’s part.

Goods and Services 2008 2009 % change
Second hand cars purchased from independent dealers 47,026 50,790 +8.0%
TVs 20,314 22,184 +9.2%
Mobile Phones (service agreements) 31,269 22,172 -29.1%
Mobile Phones (hardware) 20,160 18,470 -8.4%
Lap-tops, notebooks and tablet PCs 12,395 17,611 +42.1%
Car repairs and servicing from independent garages 16,181 16,387 +1.3%
Second hand cars purchased from franchise dealers 15,236 14,693 -3.6%
Upholstered furniture 14,532 14,457 -0.5%
Women’s clothing 14,391 14,201 -1.3%
Telephone services (land line) 12,290 11,631 -5.4%
Total of all complaints to Consumer Direct 874,307 849,827 -2.8%