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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 19, 1997
AG Recovers a Record $5.4 Million for Consumers in 1996


OLYMPIA - February 19, 1997 - The Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division helped Washington consumers receive a record $5.4 million in restitution for unfair and deceptive business practices in 1996.

The savings were generated from consumers who made more than 270,000 telephone inquiries and over 21,000 written complaints to the AG's seven Consumer Resource Centers in Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane, Olympia, Bellingham, Kennewick and Vancouver. All inquiries are handled by trained volunteers and work-study students.

"The Consumer Protection Act exists to protect consumers and businesses alike," said Gregoire. "It is in our best interest to keep both well educated and informed about the laws that pertain to them."

In addition to the many services that assist consumers, the Consumer Protection Divison also works closely with businesses, providing them with guidelines and other information on complying with the law.

Motor vehicle sales ranked number one in the top ten statewide consumer complaints last year,
with motor vehicle repairs in second place.

The rest of the top ten include:

(3) Retail organizations;
(4) Credit/mortgage companies;
(5) Travel/tour operators;
(6) Contractors;
(7) Communications companies;
(8) Collection agencies;
(9) Direct mail advertising; and
(10) Catalog/mail order companies.

CRC staff members help to reconcile consumer and business disputes. If a problem falls within the office's jurisdiction, a consumer representative is assigned the complaint and will attempt to work out a settlement between the two parties.

CRCs also maintain records of the types of complaints the office receives. This helps the office's attorneys and investigators to identify specific problem areas and pursue them more aggressively.

The Consumer Protection Division will continue its efforts to educate both consumers and businesses alike in 1997, to both resolve problems and prevent future disputes.

The CRCs can be reached statewide by calling 1-800-551-4636 or 1-800-833-6384 for the hearing impaired (TDD).


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CONSUMER SERVICES STATISTICS

Written Complaints Received:

Telephone Inquiries & Referrals:

Seattle
Tacoma
Spokane
Olympia
Bellingham
Kennewick
Vancouver

Total

11,790
3,258
2,185
978
1,220
847
1,479

21,757

Seattle
Tacoma
Spokane
Olympia
Bellingham
Kennewick
Vancouver

Total

133,451
40,324
43,797
19,345
8,536
8,225
19,266

272,944


Closed Written Complaint Files

Savings to Consumers

Seattle
Tacoma
Spokane
Olympia
Bellingham
Kennewick
Vancouver

Total

$ 2,502,931
$ 1,285,097
$ 379,329
$ 212,366
$ 246,007
$ 292,254
$ 515,378

$ 5,433,362



Top 20 Complaint Categories

1 Motor Vehicle Sales
2 Motor Vehicle Repair
3 Retail Organizations
4 Credit/Mortgage*
5 Travel/Tour Operators
6 Contractors
7 Communications
8 Collection Agencies
9 Direct Mail Advertising
10 Catalog/Mail Order
11 Appliances
12 Books & Magazines
13 Telemarketing
14 Health Clubs
15 Chain Schemes
16 Business Services
17 Real Estate
18 Investments
19 Multilevel Marketing
20 Credit Reporting

*Includes credit unions, banks, savings and loans, and mortgage brokers. Mortgage complaints are referred to the Department of Financial Institutions.

Graphs:


Number and types of complaints, total savings to consumers by year.


Number of telephone inquiries by year, number of written complaints, consumer savings.

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