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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 20, 2001
Communications Industry Again Tops AG Consumer Complaint List


Olympia -- For the third year in a row, the communications industry, which includes telecommunications and on-line services, accounted for the most complaints received by the Attorney General's office last year.

"Once again, growth in the communications industry was a double-edged sword for consumers in the year 2000," said Attorney General Christine Gregoire. "Rapidly expanding Internet services and red hot competition in the local and long-distance telephone industry have created both amazing opportunities and unrivaled problems for consumers."

Last year, the AG's office received more than 2,000 communications industry-related complaints. Many of them involved billing and service problems and failure to provide services that had been paid for.

The Top 10 consumer complaint categories for 2000 were: (1) Communications; (2) Travel; (3) Auto Sales; (4) Retail Sales; (5) Electronic Shopping; (6) Contractors; (7) Auto Repairs; (8) Credit Card Issuers; (9) Collections; and (10) Book & Magazine Sales.

During the year, consumers received more than $13.8 million in restitution and savings as a result of legal action and complaints processed by the Consumer Protection Division and the office's Lemon Law program.

Of the total amount collected as the result of actions taken on behalf of consumers, more than $686,500 was paid as restitution to consumers. In addition, consumers saved nearly $5.8 million in potential losses by filing complaints with the Consumer Protection Division. Consumers also received more than $8 million in awards and settlements with vehicle manufacturers through the Lemon Law program.

A total of 28,803 complaints--including 6,731 e-mails regarding a variety of consumer problems--were processed in 2000 by the Attorney General's Consumer Resource Centers. The centers also handled more than 166,000 telephone inquiries.

The Lemon Law program also scored big for consumers. Of the 299 arbitration requests filed in 2000, 79 percent of eligible disputes were resolved in the consumer's favor. As a result of direct assistance to consumers, most disputes were resolved and did not go to arbitration. In 2000, the Lemon Law program reported more than 20,971 telephone inquiries, 27,000 "hits" on the Lemon Law website and 427 e-mails.

The Consumer Protection Division assists consumers in resolving disputes with businesses. If a problem falls within the AG's jurisdiction, the office informally mediates complaints in an effort to get the two parties to reach an agreement on how to resolve their dispute. The AG's Consumer Resource Centers rely heavily upon volunteers and work study students to help Washington consumers.

Consumers who wish to file a complaint or serve as a volunteer consumer representative should call the Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-551-4636 or 1-800-833-6384 for the hearing impaired. They also can visit the AG website at www.atg.wa.gov/consumer.

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MOST COMMON COMPLAINTS in 2000
Consumer Resource Centers & Lemon Law Administration

Rank & Complaint Category

Number of Complaints

'99 Rank

1. Communications

2,181

1

2. Travel

1,688

4

3. Auto Sales

1,618

6

4. Retail Sales

1,331

3

5. Electronic Shopping

1,158

N/A

6. Contractors

959

7

7. Auto Repair

863

5

8. Credit Card Issuers

838

N/A

9. Collections

690

2

10. Book/Magazine Sellers

661

9

11. Credit Reporting & Related Activities

602

2

12. Financing

471

N/A

13. Insurance

294

15

14. Internet Service Providers

293

N/A

15. Commercial Banking

222

N/A

16. Landlord/Tenant

180

N/A

17. Telemarketing

171

13

18. Computer Manufacturing

168

N/A

19. Cable Networks & Program Distribution

158

N/A

20. Charities

146

17

CONSUMER RESOURCE CENTERS

2000 CONSUMER CONTACTS

Written Complaints

Calls and walk-ins

LOCATION

2000

 

LOCATION

2000

Bellingham

2,234

 

Bellingham

8,238

Kennewick

818

 

Kennewick

7,043

Olympia

*7,951

 

Olympia

17,472

Seattle

10,284

 

Seattle

73,188

Spokane

1,957

 

Spokane

14,101

Tacoma

3,837

 

Tacoma

34,320

Vancouver

1,722

 

Vancouver

11,739

     

TOTAL

28,803

 

TOTAL

166,101

* Figures for Olympia include 6,731 complaints received via e-mail.

ACTUAL & ESTIMATED CONSUMER SAVINGS

LOCATION

2000

Bellingham

$299,222.53

Kennewick

227,407.87

Olympia

273,763.89

Seattle

1,846,169.98

Spokane

470,971.77

Tacoma

1,880,771.50

Vancouver

798,657.15

  

TOTAL

$5,796,964.69


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