Consumer complaints rose by over 50% in 2020, DC AG Racine says

From price gouging to cancellation issues, District residents were hit hard last year, according to data compiled by D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine’s office.

The latest report detailing consumer protection trends showed just over 2,200 complaints came in throughout 2020 — a substantial increase over the previous year.

“During the pandemic, consumer complaints to our office increased by over 50%,” Racine said in a news release Friday.

“Working with D.C. residents, we returned over $400,000 to consumers, many of whom were subjected to unlawful price gouging. We are proud to stand up for consumers by mediating disputes and, if necessary, suing bad actors.”

Billing and refund issues were among the biggest complaints recorded. Billing issues made up 16% of consumer complaints, and refunds accounted for 13%. Over 150 price gouging complaints were filed, which led to two lawsuits.

“What we found was that the surge really was driven by consumers feeling the impact of the COVID-19 crisis,” said Ben Wiseman, Director of the Office of Consumer Protection division, adding low-income communities and communities of color were particularly hard-hit by the financial fallout of the pandemic.

The mediation program is voluntary for businesses and consumers. Residents in need of assistance navigating consumer issues can contact the attorney general’s office at oag.dc.gov.

Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell joined WTOP Radio in March 2018 and is excited to cover stories that matter across D.C., as well as in Maryland and Virginia. 

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