Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

Nov 01 2016

Ferguson File Header

BobDear Friends,

Businesses and individuals that don’t play by the rules in Washington state will pay for breaking the law.

Whether it’s a small company threatening the environment and public health to cut costs, or a national retailer using misleading advertising to sell its products, we work hard to protect consumers.

I’ve continued to drive that message home to those who skirt the rules by making them accountable for their actions.

In this issue:

Thank you for following the work of the Attorney General’s Office.

Sincerely,

Bob-Signature

Bob Ferguson
Washington State Attorney General


5-hour ENERGY® violated Consumer Protection Act

Do you ever watch a TV ad and wonder if the claims made by a company are true?

King County Superior Court Judge Beth Andrus agreed with my office that the makers of 5-hour ENERGY® violated the state Consumer Protection Act with their misleading marketing.

In her ruling, Judge Andrus found that parent companies Living Essentials LLC and Innovation Ventures LLC deceived consumers in three areas:

  • By claiming that doctors recommend 5-hour ENERGY®;
  • By claiming that the product is superior to coffee because its “energy blend” interacts in a “synergistic” way with caffeine to make the energy and alertness associated with caffeine last longer;
  • And by stating that Decaf 5-hour ENERGY® provides consumers with energy, alertness and focus that last for hours.

The companies’ ad campaign claiming doctors recommended the drink was based on an inappropriate combination of two surveys with very different methodology.

Claims that decaffeinated 5-hour ENERGY® offered similar effects to the product’s caffeinated version lacked “competent and reliable scientific evidence,” according to the decision.

The court also found fault in the companies’ claims of the “synergistic” interaction of its ingredients with caffeine:

“None of the studies Living Essentials submitted to the Court support the claim that combining specific B vitamins, taurine, choline, glucuronolactone and tyrosine with caffeine will cause the energy, alertness and focus effects of caffeine to last longer than if the caffeine were consumed alone,” the judge wrote.

These companies misled consumers in pursuit of profit. They broke the law, and they will be held accountable.

Penalties against Living Essentials and Innovation Ventures will be decided early next year.

Jessie Jones
5-Hour ENERGY Drink Violates Consumer Protection Act

Consumerist
5-Hour Energy Loses One Deceptive Advertising Case; Wins Another


Asbestos violations garner $115,000 for training, education

Multiple violations of the state Clean Air Act related to improper handling of asbestos cost two individuals and a company $115,000 in Spokane, thanks to Attorney General prosecutors, the Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Asbestos-removal regulations exist for a reason. I will not allow parties like these defendants to not only endanger the environment, but also put workers and innocent neighbors at risk, simply to pad their pockets.

Dayabir Bath, Gee Grewal and Bath’s Kent-based company, 2013 Investors LLC, pled guilty to the violations, bringing to a close a case that began when Clean Air Agency inspectors happened upon piles of debris containing asbestos at the former Spokane House Hotel in 2013.

The owners hadn’t obtained the proper asbestos surveys or city permits to do the work, as required by law.

Inspectors noticed a second pile of debris the following year, which was exposed to winds of over 40 mph, potentially spreading dangerous asbestos fibers throughout the surrounding area and exposing neighbors and workers.

Half of the total — $57,500 — will go to the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, which will work with the Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency to educate workers and employers about the dangers of asbestos. The remaining $57,500 will go to the Western States Project, which sponsors education and training for environmental enforcement.

I’ve made prosecuting environmental crimes a priority. Since 2013, I’ve brought environmental prosecutions leading to 19 criminal convictions, and restitution orders in excess of $900,000.

Kent Reporter
Kent corporation to pay penalty for asbestos violations at Spokane hotel

Seattle Medium
Ferguson Garners Guilty Pleas Over Asbestos Violations


New report details data breaches in Washington state

Information is power. Data breaches are a serious and increasing threat to our security, and my office gathers data on breaches in our efforts to protect the people of Washington.

According to a report I released, nearly half a million Washingtonians had their personal information compromised as a result of data breaches in the first year of new data breach reporting requirements.

The report details the sources and impacts of data breaches reported to my office under new, stricter notification and reporting requirements adopted by the Legislature in 2015. The requirements are the result of legislation I proposed. Its prime sponsors were Rep. Zack Hudgins and Sen. John Braun.

During the first year after the law took effect, 39 data breaches met the reporting threshold of 500 affected Washingtonians. Those 39 incidents occurred at companies and organizations ranging from school districts to national retail chains and affected at least 450,000 Washingtonians. The number is likely even higher, since several companies reported that they were unable to determine the number of individuals affected.

While most of the breaches impacted less than 10,000 individuals, one breach in the telecommunications industry affected more Washington residents than the other 38 breaches combined.

The sooner consumers know their personal information may be compromised, the more they can do to minimize the damage. This new law empowers Washingtonians to take action.

More information about data breaches in Washington is available here. More information for businesses on reporting data breaches can be found here.

 

Geek Wire
Data breaches impacted half a million people in Washington state in past year, new AG report says

The News Tribune
Report: 450,000 residents impacted by data breaches


White paper analyzes background check system in Washington

I support the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms, but it is not without limit. Reasonable restrictions should exist to keep guns out of the hands of those who are a danger to themselves or the community.

In response to an executive order of the governor, I submitted a white paper on “Access to Firearms in Washington” updating a report produced by Attorney General Rob McKenna. The original white paper analyzed state and federal firearm prohibitions related to mental health commitments, and reviewed existing state and federal background check processes. My updated document also surveys statutes related to “persons prohibited from firearm possession for any reason, and specifically analyze[s] current enforcement practices against unlawful attempts to purchase firearms by or for a person prohibited from possessing a firearm.”

My office concluded that Washington’s firearms background check system is fragmented, relying on more than 250 local law enforcement agencies to conduct background checks on handguns and for concealed weapons permits, while rifles and shotguns are checked by the federal system.

Our state needs specific improvements in the background check process, from working to ensure the timely and complete input of data to making sure processes and resources exist to restore and protect the rights of lawful gun owners.

We must also address current laws that make identifying and taking action against those who should not possess firearms unnecessarily challenging.

I’ve made specific findings and recommendations for administrative efforts and legislative changes to remedy some of the shortfalls in our systems. The document also discusses the importance of providing due process protections and procedures for the restoration of firearms possession rights where appropriate.

 

Northwest Public Radio

Attorney General's Report Identifies Gaps In Washington Gun Laws


Working around Washington

Last month, I visited Rotary clubs in Kent and Moses Lake to discuss the work of the office.  My presentations at each club highlighted some of the major legal and legislative issues of the day, as well as updates on consumer issues affecting local communities. To date, I’ve done 74 Rotary visits since I became Attorney General.


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