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What Bugs Consumers the Most? Top 10 Complaints Ranked


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Complaints about pesky telemarketers continue to tick off consumers, making it the fastest-growing gripe of 2013, according to consumer protection offices around the country.

The “Top 10 Consumer Complaints” list, annually compiled by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and the North American Consumer Protection Investigators (NACPI), reveals consumers are fed up with everything from being sold a lemon of a used car to dealing with cable bills to out-and-out fraud.

“The stories from agencies’ files illustrate the wide range of problems that consumers encounter, from faulty appliances to false advertising, high-pressure door-to-door sales to sweetheart swindles,” said Amber Capoun, president of NACPI, who is also a legal assistant in the Office of the State Banking Commission in Kansas.

Consumer Federation is an association of nearly 300 non-profit consumer groups. NACPI is an association of federal, state and local government consumer protection investigators. The groups surveyed agencies to find out what issues consumers grapple with most, as well as what challenges consumer protection groups face today when trying to resolve them.

The top grievance belongs to complaints about cars, specifically misrepresentations dealing with buying a new or used one. Bad repairs and leasing and towing disputes are also included.

According to the survey, complaints about telemarketing abuses swelled in 2013, specifically regarding violations of the federal law known as the TCPA, or Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The law allows consumers to tell a telemarketer not to contact them. It also prohibits a company from “robo-dialing” a consumers’ cellphone without his consent -- a complaint highlighted this week on ABC's World News With Diane Sawyer and Nightline.

“Despite the national do-not-call registry, strict rules concerning robo-calls, and other protections, unwanted and fraudulent phone calls are still plaguing American consumers,” said Susan Grant, Director of Consumer Protection at CFA.

The groups say scams against the elderly continue to persist as well, earning top billing as “worst” complaint of the year, based on the number of victims and the dollar amount lost. Home improvement and construction complaints, businesses that go under, sweepstakes and lottery scams and landlord/tenant disputes round out what CFA and NACPI call the “worst complaints in 2013.”

The ABC News Fixer, Stephanie Zimmermann, says these types of complaints regularly show up in her online mailbag, where viewers send in their gripes about everything from mortgage rescue schemes to shoddy home repairs.

“Consumers get frustrated when they feel they’ve been treated unfairly,” says Zimmermann, who writes a consumer column and has recovered more than a quarter-million dollars for ABC News viewers for problems big and small. “We try to not only fix individual consumers’ problems but also give other viewers information so they can avoid falling into the same trap.”

Check out the full consumer complaint list below and if you have your own consumer problem, click here to mail it in to The ABC News Fixer. You may also get help by contacting one of these federal, state or local agencies.

Top 10 Complaints in 2013

  1. Auto: Misrepresentations in advertising or sales of new and used cars, lemons, faulty repairs, leasing and towing disputes
  2. Home Improvement/Construction: Shoddy work, failure to start or complete the job
  3. Credit/Debt: Billing and fee disputes, mortgage modifications and mortgage-related fraud, credit repair, debt relief services, predatory lending, illegal or abusive debt collection tactics
  4. Retail Sales: False advertising and other deceptive practices, defective merchandise, problems with rebates, coupons, gift cards and gift certificates, failure to deliver
  5. Services: Misrepresentations, shoddy work, failure to have required licenses, failure to perform
  6. Utilities: Service problems or billing disputes with phone, cable, satellite, Internet, electric and gas service
  7. Landlord/Tenant: Unhealthy or unsafe conditions, failure to make repairs or provide promised amenities, deposit and rent disputes, illegal eviction tactics
  8. (tie) Home Solicitations: Misrepresentations or failure to deliver in door-to-door, telemarketing or mail solicitations, do-not-call violations
    (tie) Internet Sales: misrepresentations or other deceptive practices, failure to deliver online purchases
  9. Health Products/Services: Misleading claims, unlicensed practitioners, failure to deliver
  10. Fraud: Bogus sweepstakes and lotteries, work-at-home schemes, grant offers, fake check scams, imposter scams and other common frauds

Top 5 Fastest-Growing Complaints in 2013

  1. Violations of do-not-call rights and other telemarketing abuses
  2. Home improvement and construction
  3. Used car sales
  4. Utility billing issues
  5. Internet sales

Top 5 Worst Complaints in 2013

  1. Scams of all kinds against the elderly
  2. Home improvement and construction
  3. Business closings that left consumers in the lurch
  4. Phony sweepstakes and lotteries
  5. Landlord/tenant disputes

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Wall Street: Stocks Finish Mixed


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Stocks finished mixed on Wednesday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 31.75 points, ending the day at 16,880.36. The Nasdaq rose 20.20 points to 4,462.90, and the S&P 500 finished up 0.12 at 1,970.07.

Payroll processor ADP says hiring slowed a little in July but is continuing at a health pace -- possibly enough to lower unemployment nationally. Numbers from the government will be released Friday.

Gross domestic product-- a snapshot of all goods and services produced in the United States-- rose at an annualized rate of 4% from April to June, the Commerce Department announced.

A study in the journal Administrative Science Quarterly says the best managers empower and encourage their teams and ask for feedback.

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GDP Rebounds, Rises 4% in Second Quarter


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. economy has bounced back from the winter doldrums.

After contracting in the first quarter of 2014, gross domestic product (GDP) increased by 4 percent between April and June, according to the latest figures released on Wednesday by the Commerce Department.

"The big area that we saw an increase in GDP was after taking more than a percent off of GDP in the first quarter, we saw inventory bounce back and add almost 1.7 percent to that 4 percent growth figure," says Diane Swonk, chief economist for Mesirow Financial in Chicago.

The better than expected bump in the second quarter was fueled in part by more consumer spending and business investment.

"We saw consumers spend more, particularly on big ticket items, vehicle sales have been strong. We also saw gains in investment, which is much needed at this stage of the game," Swonk notes.

She adds, "I'm hoping to see at least a 3 percent handle on the rest of the summer. That would get us still to a year that's probably about 1.7, 1.8 percent overall."

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What Sprint's New Wireless Plan Says About the Future of Mobile


Joe Raedle/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Sprint and Virgin Mobile USA announced phone plans Wednesday that will let you access only four of the most popular social media apps in the country.

Marketed with parental controls and targeted toward families, customers can pay $11.98 for the new Virgin Mobile Custom plan, a no-annual-contract program for unlimited access to one of four social media apps: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram.

Each pre-paid $6.98 base plan includes 20 minutes of voice and 20 texts. Another $5 provides customers with unlimited access to one of those four apps. Or, you can choose to pay $15 for access to all four of those apps.

"Phones have migrated largely away from 'talking' at this point and are much more utilized for apps, searching and making purchases," said Ken Wisnefski, founder and CEO of online marketing agency WebiMax. "Talking is secondary. Who talks on a phone anymore?"

The announced plan is a big win for the social media companies. The four companies are not paying Sprint, the carrier said.

"One of the biggest scenarios that has benefited companies like Facebook is the fact that people are using their mobile devices for searching for everything from restaurants to purchasing large-scale items like TVs," Wisnefski said.

Last week, Facebook reported higher earnings as mobile advertising and its number of users grows. This week, Twitter reported its revenue more than doubled in its second quarter.

Retailers are investing heavily in mobile advertising as it sees increasing e-commerce web traffic from mobile devices.

"Over time, people have begun to abandon their laptop and now use their phone for everything," Wisnefski said, adding that companies are required these days to prepare websites for different screen size viewing.

"The mobile revolution has had a heavy impact on business in general," he said. "People will be walking or driving through an area and use their phones via Siri or other voice-activated searches to 'find the closest pizza place' or 'find the highest-rated Italian restaurant near me.'"

When asked why those four apps were selected for the new phone plan, and if there are any others in the pipeline, a spokeswoman for Sprint said those are the "four popular apps that our customers are currently using" and "as other apps rise in popularity they may be added."

The Virgin Mobile Custom plan is available on three Android devices that range from $79.88 to $129.88 and are available only at select Walmart stores.

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Singapore, South Africa and the Philippines Get Instagram's New App


iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Users in three countries -- South Africa, Singapore and the Philippines -- are the first to get their hands on Instagram's new ephemeral messaging app, "Bolt."

Instagram chose the three countries for their geographical diversity and engagement within their communities.

"We're going to other regions soon, but are starting with a handful of countries to make sure we can scale the experience," an Instagram spokesman told The Verge. "Instagram has 65 percent of its users overseas, so an international launch, while different, is actually not all that out of order with what we do."

While fans in the United States will have to wait for the new app, here's a sneak peek at how it works:

Users sign up with their phone number and can find friends through their contacts. There's also a favorites bar that holds up to four friends, but allows users to add up to 20.

Now it's time to take a photo or video. Simply hold down on a friend's photo. Once users lift their finger, the media is sent to a friend.

The concept is simple and fast, which can be a double-edged sword. Unlike Snapchat and other ephemeral messaging competitors, there is an option to undo an accidental "Bolt" by shaking your phone after it is sent.

Bolts are sent one on one, keeping the exchanges personal. Once the recipient swipes the photo away, it is supposed to disappear forever.

In June, Facebook, which owns Instagram, introduced its own ephemeral messaging app, Slingshot.

The app takes a "pay to play approach." Before you can open that selfie from a friend, you're going to have to send something in return.

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McDonaldÂ’s Ruling Pleases Labor Rights Crowd


Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Labor rights proponents are delighted with a legal ruling by the National Labor Relations Board.

The decision said McDonald’s can be treated as a joint employer with its franchise-owned restaurants, potentially exposing the fast food giant to hundreds of lawsuits over how companies deal with their workers.

"HUGE victory for labor & fast food workers!" the Service Employees International Union tweeted after the ruling Tuesday.

McDonald’s said it will fight the decision, which could set a precedent for the industry.

Most of the company's restaurants are owned and operated by franchisees. This also holds true for its competitors, such as Yum Brands, which owns KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut.

Unions and fast food workers have been protesting in cities around the U.S. in a push for higher wages and the right to unionize.

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ADP Report: 218,000 Jobs Added in July


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Private employers in the U.S. added more than 200,000 new jobs in July, the latest survey from ADP shows. This marks the fourth straight month of jobs added.

According to the payroll processor, 218,000 jobs were added last month -- a slight decrease from June.

"As long as we're clearing the 200,000 mark, we are back into an area where it looks like we're finally adding some more jobs and it's consistent with some of the consumer confidence numbers we've seen also that have been a little bit more bullish," says Diane Swonk, chief economist for Mesirow Financial in Chicago.

On Friday, the Labor Department will release its monthly jobs report for July. Swonk says she thinks the government's numbers will be even better.

"I think we're actually going to see a lot more than 218,000 in the job numbers on Friday. We could see closer to 280,000," she says.

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Longer Battery Life for Smartphones?


iStock/Thinkstock(STANFORD, Calif.) -- Research at Stanford University could lead to an answer for one of the biggest complaints from consumers about their smartphones: short battery life.

In a paper published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, researchers said they’ve designed a lithium-metal anode that boosts the energy storage capacity by as much as 400 percent.

“Some call it the Holy Grail. It is very lightweight and it has the highest energy density,” Yi Cui, an associate professor in Stanford’s Department of Chemistry, told Forbes. “You get more power per volume and weight, leading to lighter, smaller batteries with more power.”

The Stanford team includes former U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu. More research is needed but the advance could lead to much longer battery life for many products, including electric cars.

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Meat Scandal Putting Fish Filet and Tofu Nuggets on McDonald's Menu


McDonald's(BEIJING) -- A mom led her pouting son out of a Beijing McDonald's at lunch time this week while grumpily explaining to him, “There are no chicken wings or nuggets, or anything.”

What the home of the Big Mac and the Quarter Pounder have been offering in some of its restaurants since a meat scandal hit China is tofu nuggets.

More than 2,000 McDonald's in China, including Beijing and Shanghai, have reported a shortage of meat. McDonald's in Japan and Hong Kong are experiencing similar shortages.

Many of the restaurants have run out of the most basic McDonald's ingredients.

“Sorry, we don’t have hamburgers or chicken nuggets,” an employee at a McDonald’s in center Beijing explained to customers this week.

The restaurant was unusually quiet. At every cash register was a sign in Chinese and English saying, “We regret to let you know that currently we will only be able to provide a limited menu at our restaurant. Thank you for your understanding and your continued support to our brand. We are working towards resuming the availability of your favorite products as soon as possible.”

After reading the sign, a hungry customer complained, “What can I still eat here? There is nothing here.”

The shortages of meat and chicken came after McDonald's and other fast food restaurants in China and Japan occurred after McDonald’s cut ties with their long term meat supplier Shanghai Husi Food Company last week. They broke off the arrangement when a TV report captured footage of the company allegedly violating numerous safety regulations, including mixing in chicken and beef parts that were months beyond their expiration date.

China Food and Drug Administration shut down Shanghai Husi Food. OSI Group, Shanghai Husi’s American parent company, said in a statement last week it would pull all their Shanghai Husi products off the market.

The chain restaurants in Japan have begun buying chicken from Thailand instead of China. According to AFP, more than 3,000 McDonald’s in Japan started to sell “Tufu Shinjo” nuggets. For 249 yen ($2.40 USD), customers can try the new side dish that meshes tofu, vegetable and fish, and is chicken-free.

At the Beijing McDonald's where a man claimed there was nothing left on the menu, the harried woman behind the counter advised, “There are Filet-O-Fish sandwich, french fries, pies, ice cream. You can also order coffee and cake on the counter. Also there are some other restaurants in this building.”

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Americans Starting to Get Sold on Driverless Cars


Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The very concept of a car that drives itself makes a lot of people shudder, but a new Insurance.com survey suggests most Americans are rapidly warming up to the idea.

With cars from Google featuring autonomous capabilities expected on roads before the end of the decade, at least three quarters of those surveyed said they’d be either very likely to buy or at least consider buying a driverless vehicle.

As for the other 25 percent of the 2,000 respondents, they say there’s no way they’d purchase a car that takes the wheel out of their hands.

Interestingly, the number of those who say they’d never consider a driverless car falls to 13.7 percent if they could get a substantial break on automobile insurance.

Meanwhile, just over three in 10 of people surveyed by Insurance.com say that once they get an autonomous car, they will never drive themselves again.

However, a majority of Americans are not completely sold on the safety factor of these revolutionary vehicles. For instance, two-thirds say they would not allow their children to be transported to schools in driverless cars while 61 percent don’t think the machines have the same decision-making skills as humans.

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YouTube Comedy Star Pays Off Parents' $340,000 Mortgage


iStock/Thinkstock(PARAMOUNT, Calif.) -- How does a popular YouTube star who calls his six-figure comedy talents "obscene" spend his money?

Timothy DeLaGhetto typically entertains his 2.5 million subscribers with sex jokes and television parodies. By contrast, his latest video is a real tearjerker.

The comedian and rapper's real name is Tim Chantarangsu, and he's the son of parents who immigrated from Thailand. Chantarangsu said his income is primarily driven by advertisements from his YouTube channel called Timothy DeLaGhetto.

His videos include satire, including a raunchy take on the popular Snuggie blanket. He also writes and produces skits, including a recent video that mimics the MTV reality show Catfish.

"Not a lot of people do what I do, especially as an Asian American guy. My comedy is pretty obscene and I'm pretty blunt with the jokes I make, so I stick out from the norm. I've built a pretty strong following of people who enjoy what I do," he said. "I try to have a strong message of positivity and spreading joy and love to the world."

This week, he posted a YouTube video in which he surprised his parents with $340,000 to pay off their home mortgage.

Chantarangsu, who lives not too far from his folks in Paramount, California, told ABC News that he cranks out YouTube videos, at least one a week, so that his parents don't have to work so hard. He also is a regular on MTV2's improvisation show, Wild 'N Out, hosted by Nick Cannon.

In his newest video, he presents a check to his parents, who own a restaurant. The generous gift -- $210,000 to the loan company and $130,000 to the bank -- brings his mother to tears.

While his parents have always supported him, they were initially cautious, especially when he left college in 2010 to pursue a career in entertainment.

"I was going to college for my parents, but eventually I got to the point where I was doing all right at both -- college and Internet stuff. I realized I needed to pick one if I wanted to excel at something, so I stopped going to school," he said.

He said his mother occasionally asks him if he is going to return to school.

"I would tell her, 'Do you want me to go back to school or pay your bills?'" Chantarangsu said with a chuckle.

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What Is the Cost-Benefit of Pricey Colleges?


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Student debt may be at a record high, but in many cases, a college degree will improve your chance of getting a good job.  

A new survey by Money magazine looked at the cost-benefit analysis of colleges, and found that number one was Babson College in Massachusetts, a school that specializes in entrepreneurship and business.

While the school is expensive, within five years graduates are on average reporting earnings of about $60,000.

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One in Three Americans Have Debts Reported to Collection Agencies


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --  More than 35 percent of Americans are facing debt collectors.

A study by the Urban Institute suggests that more than one in three Americans have debts and unpaid bills that have been reported to collection agencies, as consumers fall behind on payments including credit cards, hospital bills, mortages, and student debt.

Even past-due gym membership fees or cell phone contracts can end up with a collection agency, potentially hurting credit scores and job prospects.

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Modeling Shoot Brings Fast Cash, Then Decade of Aggravation


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Victoria Bond once received a call from her husband's parents asking if she knew she had been featured in their local Midwestern penny saver as the face of Dulcolax, a laxative for women. She did not.

Bond spent one day in 2003 modeling for a stock photo company and her photos continue to pop up in the most unexpected ways.

"They keep popping up in random places," Bond, a professor of English at John Jay College of Criminal Justice told ABC News.

Bond said she had been working her way through graduate school when she landed the gig, receiving a flat rate of $2,500 for a full day of modeling for random photos.

With a studio set-up she recalled as being reminiscent of an Ikea store, Bond jumped from room set-up to room set-up, posing in all different scenarios: a kitchen, a living room, a bathroom, and even with a fake husband and children in different shots.

"I've seen myself in a bank, happy at home at a computer, as a happy mom in a Walmart, and even as a happy mom to a completely different set of kids," said Bond, who reported having bumped into different versions of herself at least 15 times over the years.

"They just don't stop," Bond said, "and it's weird because you have no memory of that stuff."

Though Bond only modeled for the company for one day, she estimated 500-600 photos, possibly more, were taken of her and continue to be sold for various ads and campaigns. Bond signed a release form, giving away all rights to the photos, the only stipulation being that the snaps could not be used in HIV or STD medication ads. Besides those two exceptions, Bond says companies not only have permission to use the photos, but also to edit them, which she believes is how the box of Dulcolax was shown in her hands.

Though she signed the proper releases, Bond said she was too young to really understand what she was signing up for.

"You don't realize that your image is going to be sold and you're not going to receive any money for it," said Bond.

Bond, who said she lived above a travel agency for three years before recognizing herself as the woman in the background of the travel billboard near her apartment, said the experience of continuously seeing herself in the ads is "shocking and annoying."

"It's very disorienting," said Bond. "It alienates you from yourself. It makes it hard to recognize yourself."

Bond said she frequently is sent photos of herself in random ads by friends and family, whether it be her and her happy fake family in Walmart or a shot of her in a doctor's office, informing the public about how important it is to prevent diabetes.

As a professor, Bond will also get sent photos by her students. Though the pictures have popped up in strange places, Bond has taken it all in stride, though she fears what the future might hold for the shots taken so long ago.

“My worst fear would have to be showing up on some sort of skeevy dating site or phone sex promotion,” said Bond, “but I guess you never know."

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Housing Prices Up More than Nine Percent


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Home prices are going up, but not as fast as they were rising last year.

According to the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Indices released Tuesday, house prices rose by just over 1% in May from the month before, and are selling more than 9% higher than this time last year.

Both the S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city index and the 10-city index showed slowing price growth in May with price increases of 1.1%, but declines of 0.3% after seasonal adjustments.

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