Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

The Washington State Attorney General’s Office's Consumer Protection Division enforces the state’s Consumer Protection Act. The resolution of lawsuits brought by this division often recovers costs and fees incurred in bringing the action, restitution for consumers and civil penalties which go to the general fund.

The Attorney General attempts to restore direct restitution to consumers wherever it is reasonably feasible to do so. However, sometimes it is impossible to identify each consumer who was harmed, or the amount of money available for each affected consumer makes it impractical to distribute money directly to consumers. In these situations, the courts might allow a "cy pres" distribution, which means that instead of individual payments, an indirect use will be allowed. Cy pres means "as near as possible" and requires that the funds be distributed in a manner that benefits the category of consumers harmed by the illegal conduct. Each court order will have specific language setting forth the restrictions on use, but the language must match the allegations in the complaint and describe what category of consumers was harmed. Therefore, grants will be awarded only to applicants whose programs match the specific type of harm addressed by the action.

In 2009, the legislature passed a bill requiring the Attorney General's Office to: "annually report to the fiscal committees of the legislature all new cy pres awards and settlements and all new accounts, disclosing their intended uses, balances, the nature of the claim or account, proposals, and intended time frames for the expenditure of each amount. The report shall be distributed electronically and posted on the attorney general's web site. The report shall not be printed on paper or distributed physically."

The Attorney General’s Office did not distribute any cy pres grants during 2023. 

Page last updated: January 16, 2024