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Sen. Mary Lazich: Top 10 consumer complaints
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Wisconsin consumers complained a lot during 2008, registering 15,903 complaints to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). Let's run down the top 10 list of consumer gripes recorded, starting with No. 10.

Making the top 10 list for the first time is travel/tourism at No. 10 with 509 complaints. Most often, travelers said they paid the entire or partial cost of a trip only to see it canceled or the travel company go out of business. The result is no vacation or refund. DATCP cautions that you double-check to make sure the travel business you are dealing with is reputable.

The No. 9 complaint is motor vehicle repair, with 517 complaints.

Gasoline/fuel non-heating complaints make the list for the first time at No. 8, with 519 complaints. Remember those $4 per gallon prices during 2008? Consumers were very unhappy about gas prices and the differences between the posted price on the street sign and the price at the pump.

The No. 7 complaint is about credit cards, with 537 complaints recorded. DATCP's advice: Read the fine print to learn the conditions that the credit card company can alter - the interest rate, billing period, or other agreements.

Another first-timer on the list at No. 6 is Internet service providers, with 570 complaints, generally about billing problems.

Satellite dishes also find their way onto the list for the first time at No. 5 with 979 complaints, again, mainly about billing.

The No. 4 item on the list, generating 1,163 complaints, is home improvement - where consumer losses can amount to tens of thousands of dollars. DATCP recommends getting agreements in writing and calling the state Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-422-7127 to confirm if there have been complaints issued about a contractor.

Not surprisingly, telephone companies made the No. 3 spot on the list, with 1,328 complaints. The telecommunications industry has finished in the top three of the top list of consumer complaints in Wisconsin every year since 1995. Key suggestions from DATCP are to review your bill closely and inquire about any charge you don't understand.

Problems with landlords and tenants make up the second-highest number of consumer complaints, 1,646 in total. Most of the complaints are about security deposits and lease conditions.

The No. 1 Wisconsin consumer gripe during 2008, generating 2,225 complaints, are violations of Wisconsin's No Call List. This has been the No. 1 complaint since Wisconsin instituted the No Call List during 2003.

The Wisconsin No Call List is a list of residential telephone numbers of Wisconsin residents who do not want to be called by telemarketers in their homes. The Wisconsin law prohibits telemarketers from calling households that have been added to the No Call List. You can register all your home phone numbers. The law also prohibits businesses from intentionally blocking the Caller ID feature on your telephone.

Only one adult in your household needs to register. Be sure to register any additional phone numbers at the same residence. Registering is free by calling 1-866-9NO-CALL (1-866-966-2255) toll-free in Wisconsin.

Telemarketers who call someone on the No Call List can be subject to a $100 fine per call. If you get a telemarketing call after you have registered to be on the No Call List:

1. If you have Caller ID, write down the phone number from which they are calling. It is illegal for a telemarketer to block Caller ID.

2. Get the name of the company for which the telemarketer works. Often companies will contract with telemarketing companies to market their services for them. Make sure you get the name of the telemarketing company, as well as the company for which they are selling. All telemarketers are required to state their name and their company's name at the beginning of the call. If you didn't hear it, ask them to repeat it.

3. Ask the telemarketer for their Wisconsin telemarketing license number.

Try to get their manager's phone number and an address for the telemarketing firm. Make sure you note the date and time the call was made. Then make a complaint to DATCP.

You can avoid many consumer protection problems by visiting the Consumer Protection Web site at or by calling the toll free hotline at 1-800-422-7127.

- Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, can be reached at,, Senator Mary Lazich, State Capitol, P.O. Box 7882 Madison, WI 53707 or 1-800-334-1442.