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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 03, 2008
Attorney General receiving more consumer complaints about collection agencies

Office releases its Top 20 list of complaint categories

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SEATTLE – Washington consumers filed 19,686 complaints with the Attorney General’s Office in 2007. Complaints about collections agencies climbed to the No. 2 spot, bumping retailers, who held that ranking since at least 2001, to No. 3.

The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division released its annual Top 20 list of consumer complaint categories today in conjunction with National Consumer Protection Week. At the same time, Attorney General Rob McKenna acknowledged the division’s work in recovering $13 million for consumers through litigation, complaint mediation, and the Lemon Law program during the 2006-2007 fiscal year.

“We made excellent strides in enforcing a fair marketplace for both consumers and businesses last year,” McKenna said.

“In 2007, we passed laws to protect seniors from trust mill scams and allow consumers to reduce their risk of becoming identity theft victims by freezing their credit files. We filed our fifth case under the state’s Computer Spyware Act.

“We organized think tanks to find solutions to reduce mortgage fraud and foreclosure rescue scams and to protect Latino consumers from scams,” he continued, “and we reached 1,800 consumers and businesses with our statewide Guard-It Washington identity theft prevention tour.”

Complaints about communications companies, which primarily include phone companies, held onto 1st place for at least the eighth consecutive year. However, the gap continues to narrow between the No. 1 and No. 2 categories. The state received a total of 1,650  complaints about the communications industry in 2007 – that represents a 32 percent drop from the previous 5-year average; while complaints about collections agencies have increased 37 percent compared to the same period.

If the trend continues, collections will take over the top spot in 2008. The office received 1,620 complaints about collection agencies in 2007 and the industry has continued to slowly climb in the ranks since 2001, when it held 8th place.

“Federal and state laws require that debt collectors treat you fairly and limit how often they may contact you,” Consumer Protection Division Chief Doug Walsh said. “Collection agencies that make misrepresentations or harass consumers should know that the Attorney General’s Office stands ready to take enforcement action if necessary.”

Complaints involving cable and satellite networks also rose significantly, jumping from No. 16 in 2006 to No. 10.

Landlord-tenant complaints made the list for the first time since at least 2001. Complaints increased by 134 percent in comparison to the previous 5-year average. This can be attributed primarily to the passage of the state’s new Manufactured/Mobile Home Landlord Tenant Act (MHLTA), RCW 59.20 and the creation of a related dispute resolution program within the Attorney General’s Office.

Top 20 Complaint Categories for 2007

Rank

Industry

2007 Total Complaints

2006 Rank

2006 Total Complaints

1

Communications

1,650

1

1,468

2

Collections

1,620

3

1,307

3

Retail Sales

1,452

2

1,398

4

Electronic Shopping

1,210

5

819

5

Auto Sales

1,184

4

934

6

Contractors

981

6

818

7

Landlord/Tenant

695

21

291

8

Books/Magazines & Directory Publishers

640

8

653

9

Credit Card Issuers

636

9

584

10

Cable Networks & Program Distribution

569

16

376

11

Auto Repair

475

10

486

12

Health Care

466

11

454

13

Commercial Banking

445

14

398

14

Mortgage Lending

407

18

324

15

Consumer Lending & Transfer Agents

405

13

420

16

Internet Service Providers

398

12

443

17

Telemarketing

384

15

392

18

Insurance

362

17

339

19

Online Auctions

316

19

319

20

Travel

314

20

318

 

Additional statistics and graphics


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 Kristin Alexander, Media Relations Manager - Seattle, (206) 464-6432

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