Consumer Complaints Data Can Spark Stories on Environment, Energy

December 2, 2015

One data source that can sometimes start stories for environmental journalists is consumer complaints to watchdog agencies. States often keep such data, and it may often be available under public records laws.

The nonprofit consumer group Truth in Advertising recently finished a review of all 50 U.S. states' consumer complaint databases — and how easy they were to access. The group found that 88 percent of states provided some form of information.

You may be curious about claims against local contractors who claim their work saves on energy bills, or who promise pest-free lawns, or who take care of pets. Ask away. The most open states were Hawaii, New Hampshire and Oregon, all of whom provide online searchable databases. Alaska, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Rhode Island kept the data secret.

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