In a sluggish economy when every dollar saved counts, the Attorney General’s Consumer Resource Centers are a valuable ally. Helping consumers and businesses resolve disputes, at no cost and without picking sides, the program’s volunteers and staff handled complaints from more than 22,000 people last year and helped recover $4.8 million those individuals said they were owed.
“Our Consumer Resource Centers go above and beyond to prevent the public from losing money to fraudsters, and to spare consumers and legitimate businesses the cost and headaches of going to court to resolve quarrels.” Attorney General Rob McKenna said.
On average, two out of every three complaints are resolved through the informal mediation service.
“The stats are impressive but the value of the Consumer Resource Centers can’t always be factored by a calculator,” McKenna said.
Recent messages from satisfied individuals help tell the story:
- From an unemployed Seattle resident who filed a complaint concerning an online company that provides skills testing for job applicants: “I just got an e-mail from the business and they will refund me $300. I'm really happy about this. … I wanted to thank you for your hard work and persistence. This was a complex issue that no one else would help me resolve.”
- From a Blaine man who complained about an unauthorized charge on his credit card stemming from an apparently misdialed number: “Please accept my thanks for your successful effort in my case. I am positive I could not have achieved the same results on my own.”
- From the owner of a Port Angeles car dealership that was subject to a customer complaint: “I appreciate your time yesterday – you have definitely dispelled any myth that great customer service does not exist in public government! I was impressed with your prompt follow up and with how quickly you called me…In the private sector, if people don’t like what they see or the service they are getting, they go elsewhere. In the public sector, that is not always a choice. It perhaps stings more when people stop and realize it is their tax dollars. It is assuring to know that our tax dollars in your department are working hard – thank you for your dedication, commitment and professionalism!”
The centers also are a clearinghouse for general information about consumer protection concerns. Staff and volunteers handled 39,250 phone calls from the public in 2010. The most commonly asked questions included those relating to car purchases, collection agencies and advance-fee schemes that typically involve a request to wire money. The centers are also skilled at helping consumers whose issues fall outside the office’s jurisdiction. Requests for legal advice and disputes between apartment renters and landlords, for example, are referred to appropriate organizations.
The call centers are open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays at 1-800-551-4636.
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