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Debt Counseling: Call 211

Residential Landlord-Tenant: Call 211
SPAM: Visit the Federal Trade Commission's Web site or e-mail them at spam@uce.gov
E-mail Scams - Advance fee and counterfeit check scams: If you suffered a financial loss you can file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov
 Legal Services Referral: For civil legal in King County, call 211

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Consumer Issues A-Z

We offer an informal mediation service to consumers whose disputes with businesses fall within our jurisdiction. Through this process, we contact businesses to determine their response to consumer complaints. If a firm refuses to respond or to make an adjustment, we cannot compel them to do so. We inform consumers of alternatives if our mediation service is not successful.

The Attorney General's Office is authorized to bring legal action only in the name of the State of Washington, and is prohibited from serving as an attorney for individual consumers. We are further prohibited from giving advice, rendering opinions or interpretations, or conducting research on behalf of individuals or businesses.

Each month our office receives more than 2,000 e-mails asking for help or information. We have found that many of the constituent inquiries fall into the same categories. In some cases, these inquires can more efficiently be handled by the agency that specializes in the area of the complaint. In order to help serve you in a more timely manner, we have provided answers to the most asked questions in each of these categories in Help by Topic.

 


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Download a PDF file or call to request a form by mail.

Seattle
800 5th Ave. Suite 2000
Seattle, WA. 98104-3188 

 

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Our call centers are open M-F 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

  • 1.800.551.4636 (in Washington only)
  • 206.464.6684
  • 1.800.833.6388 (Washington State Relay Service for the hearing impaired)

Complaint Process

Our staff will evaluate your complaint.

  • If your complaint is within our area of responsibility:
  1. The complaint will be assigned to a staff member.
  2. In most cases that person will send a copy of your complaint letter, and supporting documents, to the business and ask for a response.
  3. We will let you know the name of the staff member handling your complaint and what has been done. Should you have any new information, you should send it to the attention of that person.
  4. Most firms will respond, but it may take three weeks or more from the time you first register your complaint.
  5. If we don’t get a response within a reasonable time, we will attempt to contact the firm again.
  6. In many cases the business will respond with a satisfactory solution, that we will forward on to you, and the case will be closed.
 
  • In some cases there may not be a basis for action by this office; however, in that event, we may be able to suggest other options available.
  • Some consumer problems can be handled most efficiently by another agency. If this is the case with your complaint we will refer you to that agency.

What if the business does NOT cooperate?

If the business disagrees with your information or they believe you are not legally entitled to an adjustment, this office cannot compel a firm to resolve a complaint. In such a case, we will inform you of your options. The main option in such disputes is to bring a legal action, such as in Small Claims Court. If the amount claimed by you is over the limit handled by Small Claims Court, a private lawsuit may be necessary. The state Consumer Protection Act provides a remedy for individuals who have been harmed by unfair or deceptive business practices. If you are successful in such a suit you may also recover the costs of bringing suit, including your attorney’s fees.

When does the AGO bring a lawsuit?

Whether or not your individual complaint is resolved to your satisfaction, the basic information on your problem will be retained along with all other complaint information we receive. This information helps us to identify patterns of illegal activity which require enforcement action by the Attorney General’s Office. When such a pattern occurs, we may take more formal action which can include meeting with the firm and their attorney to attempt to resolve the issues. If this fails to resolve our concerns, we may file a lawsuit. Typically, when we file legal action, we may ask that consumers harmed by the practice be compensated, and we may ask that the court order the defendant to pay a civil penalty.

One criterion we use in selecting cases for legal action is the extent to which the activity harms the public as a whole. Another consideration is how likely our action will be in discouraging unfair practices in the future.

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