Olympia -- For the third year in a row, the communications industry, which includes telecommunications and on-line services, accounted for the most complaints received by the Attorney General's office last year.
"Once again, growth in the communications industry was a double-edged sword for consumers in the year 2000," said Attorney General Christine Gregoire. "Rapidly expanding Internet services and red hot competition in the local and long-distance telephone industry have created both amazing opportunities and unrivaled problems for consumers."
Last year, the AG's office received more than 2,000 communications industry-related complaints. Many of them involved billing and service problems and failure to provide services that had been paid for.
The Top 10 consumer complaint categories for 2000 were: (1) Communications; (2) Travel; (3) Auto Sales; (4) Retail Sales; (5) Electronic Shopping; (6) Contractors; (7) Auto Repairs; (8) Credit Card Issuers; (9) Collections; and (10) Book & Magazine Sales.
During the year, consumers received more than $13.8 million in restitution and savings as a result of legal action and complaints processed by the Consumer Protection Division and the office's Lemon Law program.
Of the total amount collected as the result of actions taken on behalf of consumers, more than $686,500 was paid as restitution to consumers. In addition, consumers saved nearly $5.8 million in potential losses by filing complaints with the Consumer Protection Division. Consumers also received more than $8 million in awards and settlements with vehicle manufacturers through the Lemon Law program.
A total of 28,803 complaints--including 6,731 e-mails regarding a variety of consumer problems--were processed in 2000 by the Attorney General's Consumer Resource Centers. The centers also handled more than 166,000 telephone inquiries.
The Lemon Law program also scored big for consumers. Of the 299 arbitration requests filed in 2000, 79 percent of eligible disputes were resolved in the consumer's favor. As a result of direct assistance to consumers, most disputes were resolved and did not go to arbitration. In 2000, the Lemon Law program reported more than 20,971 telephone inquiries, 27,000 "hits" on the Lemon Law website and 427 e-mails.
The Consumer Protection Division assists consumers in resolving disputes with businesses. If a problem falls within the AG's jurisdiction, the office informally mediates complaints in an effort to get the two parties to reach an agreement on how to resolve their dispute. The AG's Consumer Resource Centers rely heavily upon volunteers and work study students to help Washington consumers.
Consumers who wish to file a complaint or serve as a volunteer consumer representative should call the Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-551-4636 or 1-800-833-6384 for the hearing impaired. They also can visit the AG website at www.atg.wa.gov/consumer.
MOST COMMON COMPLAINTS in 2000
Consumer Resource Centers & Lemon Law Administration
Rank & Complaint Category
Number of Complaints
3. Auto Sales
4. Retail Sales
5. Electronic Shopping
7. Auto Repair
8. Credit Card Issuers
10. Book/Magazine Sellers
11. Credit Reporting & Related Activities
14. Internet Service Providers
15. Commercial Banking
18. Computer Manufacturing
19. Cable Networks & Program Distribution
CONSUMER RESOURCE CENTERS
2000 CONSUMER CONTACTS
Calls and walk-ins
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* Figures for Olympia include 6,731 complaints received via e-mail.
ACTUAL & ESTIMATED CONSUMER SAVINGS
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