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Division Description

Overview
Legal Services Provided
Significant Cases
Major Issues

Consumer Protection Division

Contact:
1-800-551-4636
E-mail

 

Bellingham
103 E. Holly, Suite 308
Bellingham, WA 98225

Spokane
West 1116 Riverside
Spokane, WA 99201-1194
Kennewick
8127 W. Klamath Ct, Bldg 6, Suite A
Kennewick, WA 99336

Vancouver
1220 Main St, Suite 549
Vancouver, WA 98660-2964

Seattle
800 Fifth Avenue, Suite 2000
Seattle, WA 98104
 

 

 


Overview

The Consumer Protection Division is comprised of 10 attorneys and 33 professional staff. The division enforces the Consumer Protection Act (RCW 19.86) to help keep the Washington marketplace free of unfair and deceptive practices. The division investigates and files legal actions to stop unfair and deceptive practices, recovers refunds for consumers and imposes penalties on offending businesses, as well as recovers attorneys’ fees and costs. The division also facilitates the informal resolution of consumer problems by notifying businesses of written complaints and informally mediating them. It provides information and education to businesses and to the public on consumer rights and issues, participates in the many legislative items that affect the division each year and sends out alerts and press releases when consumers or businesses are targets of fraudulent or predatory activities.

The division is also responsible for the administration of Washington’s Lemon Law for new motor vehicle warranty enforcement. The services include arbitration to resolve consumer and manufacturer warranty disputes, consumer and industry education and enforcement of manufacturer and dealer obligations.

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Legal Services Provided (to the state)

The division represents the state and the public as a whole, as opposed to individuals, when it brings actions under the Consumer Protection Act. As such, it is one of the only "plaintiff" practices in the office.

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Significant Cases

Mortgage Lending and Foreclosure Cases: The Consumer Protection Division have been in the forefront of addressing unfair and deceptive acts in the mortgage lending and foreclosure rescue industries. In 2008, the division drafted successful Attorney General-request legislation to ban foreclosure rescue scams from Washington state. The AGO led the 2009/2010 Countrywide/Bank of America investigation that obtained over $200 million in loan modification concessions for distressed Washington homeowners.  The Attorney  General's Office also served on the executive committee that negotiated the historical state-federal mortgage settlement with the nation's five largest banks, resulting in more than $50 billion in relief to homeowners nationwide. The AGO also plays a leading role in the State Foreclosure Prevention Working Group, a coalition of state attorneys general and state banking regulators formed to identify strategies to prevent unnecessary foreclosures.

Pharmaceutical cases: The Consumer Protection Division continues to bring civil law enforcement cases to hold drug companies accountable for over marketing of expensive pharmaceuticals, including a resolution with Pfizer Inc. related to the drug company’s alleged improper marketing of the antipsychotic drug Geodon. The state of Washington received $880,000 as a result of this settlement for costs and fees and assistance with mental health treatment. The division  resolved a case with Merck, Schering-Plogh related to unfair and deceptive marketing practices for the drug Vytorin and also resolved a case addressing failure to substantiate “negative calorie” claims regarding the dink Enviga.

Deceptive Internet Sales Practices Cases: The division's High Tech Unit remains very active. It has resolved several cases recently including:

  • ATT Mobility for alleged deceptive sales of a “free trial” roadside assistance service sold with cell phone contracts.
  • TJX a data breach case. It resulted in a recovery of $39,000 for the state.
  • DISH for a variety of alleged unfair and deceptive acts and practices resulting in an injunction and payment to the state of $325,000 plus restitution to consumers.
  • Tattoo Media for its MyLuvCrush promotion in violation of a prior settlement. The Tattoo Media case resulted in an award of $487,000 in civil penalties ($250,000 suspended) and recovery of costs and fees.
  • In addition, the division is vigorously pursuing a case against Direct TV in King County Superior Court with a trial date in June 2011.

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Major Issues

Consumer Resource Centers: Each year the division's three Regional Consumer Resource Centers (CRCs) handle an average of 50,000 calls, greet nearly 1,500 walk-in consumers and process 25,000 written consumer complaints. As a result of the informal mediation of the 25,000 written consumer complaints, the CRCs help return more than $6 million to the consumers of the state each year.

Lemon Law Program: The Lemon Law Program separately handles more than 7,000 telephone inquires and requests for assistance and provides nearly more than 7,000 arbitration packets to citizens each year. The program handles more than 100 arbitration requests each year that result in close to $2.7 million in refunds and vehicle replacements under the Washington Lemon Law.

Mobile Home Landlord-Tenant Dispute Resolution Program: The program began operation in 2007 and traveled the state educating stakeholders about the new law governing manufactured housing landlord-tenant dispute resolution in a public awareness and education campaign called Don’t Move It; Solve It. The unit affords access to justice and efficient non-judicial dispute resolution between park owners and manufactured/mobile home owners.

Outreach and Education: The division remains active in the area of outreach and education. We believe that the best way to prevent fraud is to arm consumers with the tools to avoid it before they become victimized. The division also works with other government agencies, non-profits and business organizations to help them help their constituents and avoid becoming a target of the division. The division provides nearly 200 presentations each year to thousands of citizens around the state.

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