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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 24, 2000
Communications Industry Again Tops AG Consumer Complaint List


OLYMPIA - February 24, 2000- For the second straight year, problems with the communications industry, including telecommunications and on-line services, topped the state Attorney General’s 1999 list of consumer complaints.

"The increasing popularity of the Internet, cellular phones and pagers, and the intense competition among long distance telephone service providers, have brought new opportunities and new problems for consumers," said Attorney General Christine Gregoire.

The AG’s Office received nearly 4,000 complaints against providers of communication services last year. The majority involved problems with billing and service, deceptive marketing tactics such as unauthorized switching of a long distance carrier, bills for services never ordered and receipt of unsolicited commercial e-mail.

Consumers received more than $11.8 million in restitution and savings from complaints and actions taken by the AG’s Office. Of that total, more than $336,000 was restitution from lawsuits filed by the office and more than $5.2 million was recovered for consumers in the office’s informal mediation process. Consumers also received close to $6.25 million in awards and settlements from vehicle manufacturers through the Lemon Law Program.

In 1999, the AG’s seven Consumer Resource Centers processed a total of 26,945 written complaints. This was 3,000 more than the number of complaints filed in 1998. CRC volunteers handled over 231,000 telephone inquiries and nearly 4,000 e-mails.

In addition, the Lemon Law Program received more than 20,000 inquiries. Of the cases that were arbitrated in 1999, 85 percent were resolved in the consumer’s favor.

The top ten consumer complaint categories in 1999 include: (1) Communications; (2) Credit; (3) Retail Organizations; (4) Travel Sellers/Tour Operators; (5) Motor Vehicle Repair; (6) Motor Vehicle Sales; (7) Contractors; (8) Direct Mail Advertising; (9) Books and Magazine Sales; and (10) Catalog and Mail Order Houses.

The Consumer Protection Division assists consumers in reconciling disputes with businesses. If a problem falls within the AG’s jurisdiction, the office informally mediates or arbitrates complaints in an effort to get the two parties to reach an agreement on how to resolve their dispute. More than 80 trained volunteers and work study students handled the inquiries and mediation, giving more than 33,000 hours to help Washington consumers.

Consumers wanting to file a complaint or wanting to join the team of volunteer consumer representatives should call the Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-551-4636 or 1-800-833-6384 for the hearing impaired, or visit the AG website at www.atg.wa.gov/consumer.

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Contact:  Hope Tuttle, Director, Consumer Services, 206-464-6431
 Christine Anthony, Public Information Officer, 360-753-1476

CONSUMER RESOURCE CENTERS
1999 CONSUMER CONTACTS
Written Complaints Inquiries  Inquiries 
LOCATION 
1999
 
LOCATION
1999
Bellingham
1,959
 Bellingham
10,172
Kennewick
879
 Kennewick
6,376
Olympia
* 5,075
 Olympia
17,443
Seattle
* 12,112
 Seattle
148,573
Spokane
1,819
 Spokane
14,743
Tacoma
3,679
 Tacoma
37,845
Vancouver
1,422
 Vancouver
10,859
     
TOTAL
26,945
 TOTAL
231,268

* Figures for Olympia include 3,955 complaints received via e-mail.
* Figures for Seattle include 1,321 junk e-mail complaints.  In addition, 20,683 copies of unsolicited commercial e-mails were received.

* Figures for Kennewick include 216 inquiries and 57 written complaints written and processed in Spanish.
 
 

ACTUAL & ESTIMATED CONSUMER SAVINGS
LOCATION
1999
Bellingham
$299,426
Kennewick
346,099
Olympia
335,208
Seattle
1,975,519
Spokane
415,207
Tacoma
1,393,164
Vancouver
390,537
  
TOTAL
$5,175,160
 
CRC PERSONNEL
  • 12,828 hours were contributed by Consumer Resource Center volunteers for the year.  That is a donation to the consumers of this state  worth $83,382.
  • Work-study students worked 20,311 hours in the Consumer Resource Centers.

** All figures are from a database that was closed 12/30/99 and has reported some erroneous information.  They may not be precise.
 
 

MOST COMMON COMPLAINTS in 1999 
Consumer Resource Centers & Lemon Law Administration
Rank & Complaint Category 
Number of Complaints
’98 Rank
1. Communications
3,806
1
2. Credit (incl. credit reporting & collection agencies)
2,963
2
3. Retail organizations
1,893
6
4. Travel & tourism
1,780
5
5. Motor vehicle repair
1,657
3
6. Motor vehicle sales
1,219
4
7. Contractors
1,110
7
8. Direct mail advertising
1,072
10
9. Books/magazines
814
8
10. Catalog & mail order houses
555
11
11. Appliances
460
12
12. Business services
388
13
13. Telemarketing
298
9
14. Real estate
258
16
15. Insurance
260
18
16. Mobile homes
230
N/A
17. Charities/trusts
225
20
18. Health clubs
184
17
19. Health services
178
14
20. Moving & storage
147
 

 

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