American’s have had to navigate a web of customer service challenges and disruptions during the pandemic, as everyday tasks such as banking, refunds and exchanges suddenly became more complicated. 

Some companies and industries swiftly responded to the challenges. For example, a long list of broadband and energy companies relaxed their data usage limits to promote remote learning and telehealth options. And many in the retail service industry extended return deadlines. 

Still, others fell short of going above and beyond to cater to customers, according to data from the consumer advocacy service FairShake, which helps solve money disputes with big companies. 

Thousands of customers each month have taken to the platform to start COVID-related legal disputes with large firms. And the most complained about consumer-facing industries included fitness, telecommunications, banking and the vacation rental sector, FairShake data provided to USA TODAY suggests. 

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Some of the reported complaints were lodged because companies continued to charge customers despite service disruptions. Others were because firms reportedly underdelivered on their promises. 

Among the companies consumers weren’t happy with was 24 Hour Fitness, which “continued charging members while their locations closed, while shutting down their phone lines to avoid cancellations,” according to FairShake.

In April, the fitness chain faced public scrutiny for blocking membership cancellations, even though gyms were shuttered. In June, it filed for bankruptcy protection and closed dozens of locations. 

24 Hour Fitness did not immediately respond to USA TODAY’s request for comment. 

Overall, COVID-related claims made against gyms and fitness companies averaged around $700, FairShake says. Customers typically received refunds once the companies were threatened with legal action, according to the platform. 

In the telecommunications sector, customers lodged complaints against big companies citing a range of alleged offenses such as indicating “they would waive fees due to the pandemic but didn’t deliver” and charging customers for services they didn’t receive. 

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In finance, customers told Fairshake that some banks may not be keeping their promises to delay payment obligations. Users filed these types of complaints against American Express and US Bank. 

As the coronavirus-induced shutdown prevented people from traveling, vacation rental companies like Airbnb were slower to issue proper refunds, customers allege. FairShake is in the process of helping hundreds of hosts bring claims against the company. 

Follow Dalvin Brown on Twitter: @Dalvin_Brown. 

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