If you live in Washington and purchased products or services described below, you may be eligible for a refund or restitution as part of a settlement.
In many cases, consumers must submit valid claims in order to receive payment. In some situations, payment is sent directly to affected consumers whose contact information is on file with the company or the Attorney General’s Office.
Click on the links below for more information about eligibility and how to submit a claim.
Background: eFoodhandlers, Inc., an Oregon-based internet company that offers online training and “certification” to food service workers, sold consumers invalid food handler certificates that did not comply with Washington state law—a violation of the Consumer Protection Act. The AGO filed suit, and eFoodhandlers will pay full restitution of approximately $120,000 to more than 11,000 consumers who paid for the invalid certificates and other services. eFoodhandlers charged $10 per certificate and added on extra fees for additional services. In addition, the agreement prohibits “certification” by eFoodhandlers’ website, requires removal of any implied or explicit references in compliance with Washington laws, and requires eFoodhandlers to pay the AGO $40,000 for attorney fees and costs.
Eligibility: eFoodhandlers will mail checks to affected consumers’ last known address. The refund amount each consumer will receive is based on the total amount they originally paid to eFoodhandlers. Most payments will be under $20. Consumers should receive a refund by September 1, 2015.
Eligible consumers should file a consumer complaint on the Washington Attorney General’s Web site at http://www.atg.wa.gov/FileAComplaint.aspx and request a refund. Consumers who have submitted complaints to the Attorney General’s Office of any state or a Better Business Bureau do not have to submit new documentation, unless requested.
Knowledge for Kids (K4K)
Background: The Attorney General’s Office recovered roughly $36,200 from Knowledge for Kids (K4K), which also does business as “Kures for Kids,” and its owners/operators, a married couple, Michael and Amy Gannon, in December.
The Gannons claimed to be collecting funds for charity at tables inside or outside grocery stores and other retail establishments. Instead, they pocketed more than half of the approximately $70,000 raised. Only about $2,100 went to charities and the remaining difference covered expenses such as commercial fundraisers. AGO investigators also observed K4K solicitors telling potential donors they were volunteers even though they were paid a rate of $10 per hour.
In its stipulated judgment, the court ordered K4K and the Gannons to pay $36,200 in consumer restitution to the Attorney General’s Office and $91,500 in penalties, costs, and reasonable attorneys’ fees (suspended as long as all of the defendants comply with the terms of the stipulated judgment). The recovered funds will be used to benefit the public. As part of the agreement, the Gannons were required to dissolve K4K. They are also prohibited from forming any new charities or commercial fundraising organizations, working for any charitable organization in any capacity requiring the handling of money or fundraising, or serving as fundraising counsel or consultants.
Eligibility: K4K donors should file a consumer complaint on the Washington Attorney General’s Web site at http://www.atg.wa.gov/FileAComplaint.aspx and request a refund. Consumers who have submitted complaints to the Attorney General’s Office of any state or a Better Business Bureau do not have to submit new documentation, unless requested.
Background: The Attorney General’s Office has secured full restitution for consumers who lost money doing business with now-defunct Gill’s Furniture, a retail store formerly located in Tacoma, Washington. The Attorney General’s Office sued the company after receiving a flood of complaints from people who ordered and paid for merchandise from the store, mostly between July and December 2011, then never received their orders. Consumers said they were continually misled about their orders and delivery dates. Some customers never received their furniture, and even then they were refused refunds. Many consumers also claim their inquiries with the Gill brothers were met with belligerence, and some even reported being threatened. Business records indicate Gill’s Furniture ceased operating on or around December 31, 2011. MFC Furniture, owned by Joeseph Gill, now operates at the same location.
Under the agreement filed Thursday in Pierce County Superior Court, Loren Gill, former owner of Gill’s Furniture, must pay full restitution to consumers who paid for furniture that Gill’s never delivered. He will pay a total of $44,368.42 to pay restitution to consumers who never received furniture they paid for, and the rest will go to the Attorney General’s Office to cover attorneys’ fees and costs. Loren Gill is also liable for another $94,000, suspended upon his compliance with the agreement.
Also under the agreement, Loren Gill’s brother, Joeseph, who now owns MFC Furniture, a furniture store in the same location as Gill’s, also signed an agreement promising not to violate the state’s Consumer Protection Act or engage in any other unfair or deceptive practices. He is liable for a $25,000 payment suspended as long as he complies with the agreement.
Eligibility: Customers of Gill’s Furniture who have not previously filed a complaint and feel they deserve payment should file a consumer complaint on the Washington Attorney General’s Web site at http://www.atg.wa.gov/FileAComplaint.aspx and request a refund. Consumers who have submitted complaints to the Attorney General’s Office of any state or a Better Business Bureau do not have to submit new documentation, unless requested.
GlaxoSmithKline, LLC (GSK)
Background: Legal action by Washington, along with 44 other states, has resulted in drug manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline, LLC (GSK) paying the states $105 million to resolve claims of deceptive marketing and promotion of non-approved uses of certain drugs. Washington’s share is $2.1 million. The states’ attorneys general allege that GSK unlawfully promoted its asthma drug, Advair, and antidepressant drugs, Paxil and Wellbutrin. The Complaint and Consent Decree filed in King County Superior Court alleged that GlaxoSmithKline violated the Washington State Consumer Protection Act by misrepresenting the uses and qualities of these drugs. This resulted in the drugs being prescribed to patients for “off-label” uses that the Food and Drug Administration had not approved.
In addition to the $105 million payment, the Consent Decree requires GlaxoSmithKline to reform its marketing and promotional practices. GSK shall not make promotional claims, unless approved or permitted by the FDA that a GSK product is better, more effective, safer, or has less serious side effects than what has been demonstrated by substantial evidence. I shall also provide samples of GSK products to health care professionals who would be expected to prescribe the sampled product for an off-label use and disseminate information describing any off-label use of a GSK product, unless such information is consistent with applicable FDA regulations.
Washington collaborated in this legal action along with Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Western By Design, LLC (“1880 Western Wear”)
Background: The Attorney General’s Office has resolved a lawsuit against 1880 Western Wear, an Internet based company in Colville, WA, for violations of the Consumer Protection Act. The resolution involves refunds to approximately 117 consumers across the nation, including at least 5 in Washington state, repaying consumers for items they paid for, but never received. The defendant, Western By Design, LLC, went by the name of “1880 Western Wear,” before recently closing the business. The company was an online retailer that sold western clothing wear and apparel.
There are 117 known complaints against 1880 Western Wear through the AGO, BBB and Ripoff Reports. This company has an ‘F’ rating from the BBB. Consumers waited often over a year to receive ordered items even though some goods were ordered for special occasions such as weddings, birthdays, and Christmas. Some consumers felt their only option was to request a refund when their items were not delivered as promised, but the defendant had a policy of “no refunds” five days after an order was placed. In many cases when the defendant did agree to provide refunds, consumers waited months before receiving the money.
Eligibility: By May 11, 2015, the defendant must provide the AGO a list of all known consumers that purchased any products from 1880 Western Wear from January 1, 2013 through September 20, 2013.
After 1880 Western Wear provides names of scammed customers, AGO will send a letter by U.S mail to these consumers informing them they may be entitled to a refund. The letter will include a claim form the consumer can fill out to request a refund for items paid for, but never received. Consumers will have 45 days from the date the notices are sent to submit a claim.
Within one year after the 45 day claim period, the defendant will send refund checks to all eligible claimants that will cover the cost of any undelivered goods, including sales tax, delivery charges etc. Refund amounts will vary depending on original purchase price.
Background: Change-My-Address.com will pay $3 million back to consumers to resolve complaints of deceptive practices. Approximately 433,000 consumers were affected nationwide in 2013, including 20,000 Washington consumers to be refunded approximately $18.95 each . Consumers who purchased the defendants’ services will receive roughly $18.95 each unless they have already received money back.
Change-My-Address.com is an Ohio internet-based business that offers online change of address services. The AGO found that Change-My-Address.com defendants used deceptive business practices, most notably, by failing to disclose the total $19.95 charge billed to consumers for change of address services. There were 500 complaints against the defendant at the Ohio Better Business from consumers across the country. At least 22 complaints came from Washington consumers.
After finding Change-My-Address.com via an internet search engine, consumers would click on the defendants’ website, believing it was the United States Postal Service (USPS) change of address service. USPS charges only $1 for change of address services. When the consumer filled out the appropriate address and forwarding information on the defendants’ website form and clicked “continue” to complete the transaction, he or she was taken to the page requesting payment information. The defendants set the payment information page so it would automatically jump down to the middle of the page where it requests the credit card information. This jump allowed the company to deliberately alter the top of the payment page which said, “To prevent fraudulent address changes and to cover the cost of processing and handling, you authorize us to charge your credit or debit card a one-time $19.95 fee.” To view the disclaimer, consumers had to manually scroll to the top of the page.
The defendants furthered the scheme by creating the impression on the website that the cost of services would be limited to the $1 charge assessed by the USPS. The disclosure at the top of the landing page stated that the consumer would be assessed, “a one dollar processing fee charged by the USPS for submitting an online address change request that must be paid with a valid debit or credit card.” Many consumers believed they would only be charged $1 for services, only learning of the $19.95 charge when it appeared on his or her billing statement. In addition, the defendants refused to refund the full amount charged when consumers contacted them to complain.
The Washington and Ohio attorneys general each filed lawsuits under their state consumer protection laws in 2013 against the defendants. The states’ settlements provide relief for consumers nationwide, regardless of their state of residence.
Eligibility: Consumers are to receive a full refund. The defendants are required to email all consumers who haven’t already received a full refund. The email, which must be sent by May 24, 2014, will contain a notice of the ability to make a claim for a refund minus the $1 that was paid by the defendants for the USPS postal service address change. The email will also include instructions on how to file a claim, and the time in which the claim must be filed.
Consumers have until August 7, 2014 to file a claim for a refund after receiving notice.
The defendants may also try to contact the consumer by U.S. Mail if email contact is unsuccessful.
Background: Hundreds of thousands of Washington state consumers to receive full refund and additional benefits from a settlement reached with DISH. The Attorney General’s Office alleged DISH began charging its Washington state consumers an unlawful monthly line-item surcharge in May of 2012, collecting more than $2 million in surcharges. Hundreds of thousands of Washington consumers were illegally charged a dollar per month for up to eight months. DISH will repay the $2 million and provide additional benefits to consumers that could amount to $3 million, totaling up to $5 million in repayments.
The AGO alleged that DISH misrepresented the nature of the surcharge to consumers, creating the impression it was a government-imposed fee. This gave Washington consumers the false impression that DISH’s prices were lower than they really were, making it harder for consumers to shop for the best price.
Headquartered in Colorado, DISH sells and distributes digital entertainment programming via satellite to residential and commercial subscribers in all 50 states, including Washington. From May through December of 2012, DISH charged consumers a “WA State Surcharge” or “WA Surcharge” ranging from $1.00 to $1.09—stopping only after the AGO began an investigation.
After the settlement, consumers will receive a full refund of the surcharge they paid, regardless of whether they are still DISH customers.Consumers do not need to do anything to get their refund—it will be issued as a bill credit for current customers or a check to former customers who paid the surcharge. DISH will contact all eligible consumers via mail or email. DISH will also pay the AGO $569,500 for costs and attorneys’ fees.
Residential subscribers who paid the surcharge and are still DISH customers, will get to choose one of the following benefits: (1) A ten dollar credit applied to their monthly bill; (2) Two free pay-per-view movies; or (3) Two months of free access to Epix movie channel (if they are not already subscribed to Epix). Commercial subscribers, such as bars or restaurants, who paid the surcharge and are still DISH customers and who file a claim will receive a $10 bill credit.
Depending on the number of consumers who file a claim, DISH could provide about $3 million in additional benefits to Washington consumers.
This is not the first time the AGO has investigated DISH for deceptive practices. In 2009, DISH settled allegations by Washington and 45 other states, including allegations that DISH failed to adequately disclose to consumers conditions of its service agreements. The 2009 settlement included a commitment by DISH to not engage in any unfair or deceptive practices, a commitment the AGO alleges DISH broke with its recent deceptive surcharge.
Eligibility: While no action is needed to receive the refund, affected consumers must submit a claim form to choose and receive their additional benefit. DISH is developing a web page—www.WaDISHsettlement.com—where consumers will be able to submit claims forms.
Consumers wishing to claim their benefits under this settlement must submit a claim form and choose their benefit by Aug. 17, 2014.
Quality Loan Service (QLS)
Background: Legal action by the Washington State Attorney General against foreclosure trustee Quality Loan Service Corp. of Washington (QLS) has stopped unfair and deceptive business practices. QLS is one of the largest foreclosure trustees in Washington state. Foreclosure trustees are legally required to act in good faith as neutral parties between borrowers and lenders while conducting foreclosure proceedings.
The Deed of Trust Act requires a trustee, like QLS, to maintain a street address with a physical presence and active telephone service in Washington state. This law ensures homeowners have a place they can go to ask questions, make last-minute payments, request a foreclosure be postponed or serve a lawsuit to halt the foreclosure.
An AGO investigation found that QLS closed its former office in Poulsbo in January 2014 and moved to an office in Seattle. It did not inform borrowers who were in the foreclosure process of the move. Additionally, some borrowers were unable to gain entry to reach QLS’s Seattle office, which was in a locked, poorly marked office building. The AGO alleged QLS’s failure to notify borrowers of the office move and the inaccessibility of the new office constituted unfair and deceptive business practices and therefore violated the Consumer Protection Act. On February 26, 2014, the AGO filed a motion in King County Superior Court to obtain a Temporary Restraining Order against QLS to halt impending foreclosures.
QLS has agreed to pay a total of $250,000 to foreclosed homeowners who were foreclosed upon by QLS from January 1 to February 27, 2014. It is estimated more than 450 homeowners will receive approximately $500 each. QLS must also place a moratorium on all foreclosures that is effective for six weeks, from February 27 until April 3, 2014. Foreclosure sales can begin again on April 4, 2014. In addition, QLS must pay $25,000 to cover the AGO’s costs and attorney’s fees. QLS already took action following the AGO’s initial court action to ensure homeowners can now gain access to its office in Seattle and sent a notice informing homeowners of its change of address.
Eligibility: The AGO will contact eligible foreclosed homeowners — those whose properties were foreclosed upon after QLS moved from Poulsbo to Seattle, but before the AGO’s legal action — to distribute payments. Homeowners whose properties are scheduled for foreclosure are encouraged to contact a housing counselor or attorney to pursue foreclosure alternatives and protect their rights.
All homeowners who are facing foreclosure should call a certified home counselor for free at 1.877.894.HOME (4663).
Manufacturers of Dynamic Random Access Memory (DRAM) Computer Chips
Background: After completing an investigation in 2006, the Washington State Attorney General’s Office joined a multi-state antitrust lawsuit in federal court alleging that consumers who purchased electronic devices containing DRAM between 1998 and 2002 overpaid for these purchases due to a price-fixing conspiracy among DRAM producers.
DRAM is a widely used form of computer memory that can be found in everything from personal computers to servers to MP3 players. Regardless of the brand name, most of these types of products produced between 1998 and 2002 contained DRAM chips.
The total multi-state settlement is $310 million. These consumer payments will settle multi-state antitrust allegations that the manufacturers conspired to fix prices. The amount of money returned to Washington state consumers depends on how many claims are filed and the types of products they purchased. For this reason, the total amount returned per consumer is unknown at this time.
The Attorney General also filed a lawsuit on behalf of Washington state agencies that purchased computers and other products containing DRAM chips. An estimated $500,000 will be returned to state agencies when the settlement is finalized.
Eligibility: Consumers are encouraged to file claims to receive share of $310M settlement. To receive money from the settlement, consumers need to submit a claim form by August 1, 2014.
Any consumer who purchased one or more of the following items between 1998 and 2002 is eligible to make a claim:
- Desktop computers
- Laptop computers
- Computer servers
- Computer graphics cards
- Video game consoles
- MP3 players
- DVD players
- Digital video recorders
If you purchased other technology devices containing DRAM memory, you also may be eligible to make a claim.
To file a claim or learn more, visit www.DRAMclaims.com or call 1-800-589-1425.
Ultra Mega Corp, LLC (UMB)
Background: The Washington State Attorney General’s Office (AGO) recovered $20,000 from Rudy O. Corella, Jr., owner of Internet “file-locker” website Ultra Mega Corp, the settlement resolves allegations that Ultra Mega Corp engaged in a number of deceptive business practices in violation of the Washington state Consumer Protection Act.
Ultra Mega Corp, LLC (“UMB” found at www.ultramegabit.com) is a California corporation doing business via the Internet. UMB is a “file locker” — a website that stores files online and provides the opportunity for the files to be downloaded. Unless a consumer purchases a membership, downloads are limited. Consumers may purchase memberships for $9.50 per month or $52 for six months.
The AGO alleged that UMB did not adequately disclose that member subscription plans automatically renew without member approval. Additional deceptive business practices include failure to disclose that some content may be copyrighted and therefore illegal to download implicitly leading members to believe they are accessing content legally on UMB by charging for access to that content.
Eligibility: The $20,000 recovered from Corella will go toward the AGO’S costs and fees.
Separately, Corella will email Washington state consumers who bought a premium membership between January 1, 2012 and November 20, 2013 and offer them a refund if they were charged for an automatically renewed membership that they did not want and did not make use of.
Consumers who bought memberships to this service, who do not hear from Corella, should file a complaint with the AGO at http://www.atg.wa.gov/FileAComplaint.aspx and request a refund.
Background: Washington homeowners will share in $550 million secured for homeowners nationwide through a legal action against SunTrust Mortgage, Inc. by 49 states, the District of Columbia and the federal government. The legal action announced today addresses mortgage origination, servicing and foreclosure abuses by the Richmond, Virginia-based company. Washington borrowers represent 744 of the company’s 48,223 foreclosures from 2008 through 2013.
Eligibility: Under the agreement, SunTrust must provide certain Washington state
borrowers with loan modifications or other relief. SunTrust will choose
from an extensive list of options, including principal reductions and
refinancing for underwater mortgages. While SunTrust decides how many
loans and which loans to modify, the company must meet certain minimum
targets. While more information about the loan modification process will be
released at a later date, current borrowers with loans serviced by
SunTrust may contact the company directly with questions. SunTrust’s
toll-free number is 1-800-634-7928, and the company website is
Washington borrowers who encountered servicing abuses by SunTrust and lost their
homes to foreclosure between Jan. 1, 2008 and Dec. 31, 2013 will be eligible for a payment from the $40 million national fund established as part of this agreement. Their payment amount will depend on how many borrowers
file claims. Eligible borrowers will be contacted about how to qualify
Background: Ocwen Financial Corporation of Atlanta, Georgia, and its subsidiary, Ocwen Loan Servicing, have agreed to a joint state-federal settlement with Attorney General Bob Ferguson, 48 additional states and the District of Columbia, and the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). In Washington state, Ocwen will provide troubled borrowers with an estimated $49 million in first-lien mortgage principal reductions. In addition, 3,637 Washington borrowers who lost their homes to foreclosure while serviced by Ocwen will be eligible to receive a cash payment. The payment amount is projected to exceed $1,000 per borrower.
Eligibility: In some cases Ocwen will contact borrowers directly regarding mortgage principal reductions. Regardless, borrowers should contact Ocwen to obtain more information about mortgage principal reductions and whether they qualify under terms of this settlement at 1.800.337.6695 or ConsumerRelief@Ocwen.com. More information can be found on the fact sheet, here.
Washington borrowers may also complete this form.
A settlement administrator will contact qualified borrowers associated with foreclosed loans regarding cash payments. More information about when and how borrowers will be contacted will be made available as the settlement programs are implemented.
Freedom Debt Relief
Background: The Washington Attorney General's Office reached a settlement with Freedom Debt Relief over allegations of sometimes charging consumers more than the state’s Debt Adjusting Act allows, taking fees before the time permitted by the statute and failing to adequately inform some consumers about how the program works. The company denied the state's allegations but agreed to a restitution program.
Eligibility: Washington residents who enrolled in Freedom Debt Relief’s program may be eligible for refunds of paid fees if they fit in one of these groups:
- Those who QUIT the program before the company negotiated a proposed settlement for any of their enrolled debts. They are eligible for a refund of all fees paid to the company.
- Those who a) DIDN’T COMPLETE the program, b) quit after the company negotiated a proposed settlement and c) whose net fees paid to the company exceed 15 percent of the enrolled debts that were negotiated. They are eligible for a partial refund.
- Those who a) are STILL PARTICIPATING in the program and b) whose net fees paid to the company exceed 15 percent of enrolled debts that have been settled or remain in active negotiation. They are eligible for a partial refund.
- Those who a) are STILL PARTICIPATING in the program but b) QUIT prior to 30 days from the time they receive notice of this settlement (without completing the program). They are eligible for a partial refund.
- Those who a) COMPLETED THE PROGRAM and b) whose net fees paid to the company exceed 15 percent of enrolled debts. They are eligible for a partial refund.
Consumers who already received refunds for all paid fees aren’t eligible for additional restitution under this settlement.
The refund program will be handled through a parallel, private class-action lawsuit on behalf of Washington consumers, which is also in the process of settlement [as of 3/3/11]. The case is Carlsen et al. v. Freedom Debt Relief, LLC, et al., Case No. CV-09-00055-LRS (E.D. Wash.) Once the court in that case gives approval, eligible consumers will be contacted about the refund process, how much money they are eligible to receive, and how to submit a claim.
Consumers who have questions about the refund program should contact The Scott Law Group in Spokane at 1-888-955-3966. Information is also online at www.thescottlawgroup.com/freedomdebtrelief.