Telecoms, collection agencies and broadband providers again top complaints to AG’s Office
SEATTLE – The numbers are in. The Washington State Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division today announced their annual list of the top 20 classes of companies about which consumers complain.
The winners— or more accurately, the losers — are telecommunications companies, which generated 1,581 complaints in 2011. Collection agencies, which ranked number one in complaints in 2010, fell to number two. Broadband companies generated the third most complaints. All three classes of companies were in the top three in 2011 as well.
“The fact that collection agencies and mortgage lenders continue to generate so many complaints is a reminder that too many people are struggling during these tough times,” Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna said. “That’s one of the big reasons we’re proud to have saved consumers more than $4 million in 2011, through free mediation. That extra money makes a difference in peoples’ lives.”
The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division’s mission is to foster a fair, competitive and non-deceptive marketplace. The Division has Consumer Resource Centers (CRCs) in Seattle, Vancouver and Bellingham that handle an average of 40,000 calls, greet nearly 450 walk-in consumers and process 23,000 written consumer complaints every year.
Here’s the top 20 list of complaints from 2011:
2. Collections: 1,577
3. Broadband service providers: 1,363
4. Retail: 1,116
5. Auto sales: 985
6. Commercial banking: 914
7. Mortgage lending: 893
8. Books/magazines & directories: 759
9. Electronic shopping: 623
10. Health care: 500
11. Contractors: 470
12. Travel: 416
13. Advance fee fraud: 408
14. Consumer lending: 374
15. Auto repair: 359
16. Government agencies: 336
17. Financing: 331
18. Residential landlord/tenet: 330
19. Manufactured home landlords:328
20. Credit card issuers: 311
Complaints filed with the office are analyzed to help staff identify classes of industries or specific companies that may deserve extra scrutiny. DISH Network, for example, racked up more than 300 complaints over a three year period. In 2009, a case led by the Attorney General’s Office resulted in DISH paying a nearly $6 million national settlement. Complaints regarding mortgage lending and foreclosure practices are currently receiving extra scrutiny, as the office works to correct industry procedures that hurt struggling homeowners.
“Complaints coming into our CRCs can be an early warning system, focusing us on areas that demand attention,” said Consumer Protection Division Chief Doug Walsh. “Other times, complaints help bolster current cases targeted at stopping the greatest harm to the marketplace.”
Walsh added that the CP Division does not have the resources to file suits against every wrongdoer and instead promotes deterrence by focusing civil law enforcement actions in areas where there is the greatest harm to the marketplace. Complaints are helpful in determining those targets.
Consumers may file a complaint online at www.atg.wa.gov.
Janelle Guthrie, Director of Communications, (360) 586-0725