HOUSTON – The Houston Better Business Bureau gets thousands of complaints every year, but so far in 2019 three types of deceptive practices are really catching consumers off guard. These industries and their misleading sales tactics have received the most complaints.
1) Door-to-Door Energy Provider Salespeople
The Houston BBB has received 486 complaints against energy providers this year, with the number one issue being unethical door-to-door sales practices. Consumers are complaining that they have been switched without their permission.
This is how it usually happens: The salesman says he's with your electric company and claims there's been a problem with your account. He says he needs to see your most recent bill to straighten it out. Once you give him your bill, he has all the information he needs to switch you to a new company.
If someone claims to be from your electric provider, just call the number on your bill and ask to speak with them. Don't talk to door-to-door salespeople.
2) New Car Dealerships
The BBB has received 414 complaints about new car dealerships, specifically financing and purchase issues. The two biggest issues: Consumers are told they're preapproved by phone, only to arrive and find out they're not or they purchase a vehicle and find out the interest rate after the contract is signed.
The latter issue is not illegal according to the Texas Office of the Consumer Credit Commissioner. That agency says the "interest or finance charges are not required for a transaction to be considered financed."
Make sure any documents you sign list the agreed-upon finance charge. If they don't specify an interest rate, don't take possession of the vehicle. This usually means the dealership is still shopping around to find someone to finance your vehicle. If you sign the contract and take the vehicle, you are agreeing to whatever rate they can get.
3) Online Retailers
This industry has received 359 complaints from Houston-area consumers so far this year. The majority of those folks were upset that they never received items they purchased.
Only order from reputable online stores that have a history of good customer service. Google the name of the store. Look for reviews. If there are bad reviews or no reviews at all, shop somewhere else.
Another telltale sign of a shady online company is when the only way to contact them is an email address or a contact form. You should be able to call. Bonus if there is a physical address. Google the address and make sure it's not just a post office box or UPS Store where the retailer is simply collecting payments.