Consumers carry on complaining

Unsatisfactory services provided by weight-loss centers and gyms, as well as defective or overpriced household appliances, topped the list of complaints received last year by the government’s consumer protection agency, according to figures made public yesterday. The 1520 hotline, operated by the Development Ministry’s General Secretariat for Consumers, received a total of around 7,000 complaints in 2004 – slightly fewer than in 2003 – most of which (4,346) concerned services. The remaining 2,654 were for unsatisfactory goods. Some 12.7 percent of all complaints regarding services rendered were about slimming institutes, gyms and diet centers – Greece has one of the highest rates of overweight people in the European Union – leaving the public sector to tie with accountants, real estate agents and other self-employed professionals at a distant 7.2 percent. Insurance companies followed at 5 percent, while fast-food outlets and supermarkets accounted for 4.1 and 4 percent, respectively, of all complaints regarding services. As far as goods were concerned, household appliances topped the list at 31.1 percent, followed by fuel at 19.7 percent, food products at 13.4 percent, and clothes and shoes at 9.4 percent. Cars, motorbikes and spare parts for these vehicles accounted for 6.8 percent of all complaints. The worst year for complaints since the 1520 hotline opened was 2003, when the General Secretariat for Consumers fielded some 7,400 calls – marking a 34 percent rise over 2002 and a 72 percent increase compared to 2001. In 2003, slimming institutes had also topped the list of complaints regarding services, followed by insurance companies.