Washington consumers filed 19,686 complaints with the Attorney General’s Office in 2007, with insurance ranking among the top 20 complaints. Complaints about collections agencies climbed to the No. 2 spot, bumping retailers, who held that ranking since at least 2001, to No. 3. Insurance was ranked 18.
Complaints about communications companies, which primarily include phone companies, held onto 1st place for at least the eighth consecutive year. However, the gap continues to narrow between the No. 1 and No. 2 categories. The state received a total of 1,650 complaints about the communications industry in 2007 – that represents a 32 percent drop from the previous 5-year average; while complaints about collections agencies have increased 37 percent compared to the same period.
If the trend continues, collections will take over the top spot in 2008. The office received 1,6 20 complaints about collection agencies in 2007 and the industry has continued to slowly climb in the ranks since 2001, when it held 8th place.
“Federal and state laws require that debt collectors treat you fairly and limit how often they may contact you,” Consumer Protection Division Chief Doug Walsh said. “Collection agencies that make misrepresentations or harass consumers should know that the Attorney General’s Office stands ready to take enforcement action if necessary.”
Also in 2007, the Attorney General’s Office launched All Consuming, it’s consumer protection blog. In conjunction with National Consumer Protection Week, the office will post a daily tip related to a top 10 complaint category. Tips can be read online at www.atg.wa.gov/allconsuming.aspx.
Complaints involving cable and satellite networks also rose significantly, jumping from No. 16 in 2006 to No. 10.
Landlord-tenant complaints made the list for the first time since at least 2001. Complaints increased by 134 percent in comparison to the previous 5-year average. This can be attributed primarily to the passage of a the state’s new Manufactured/Mobile Home Landlord Tenant Act (MHLTA), RCW 59.20 and the creation of a related dispute resolution program within the Attorney General’s Office.
The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division released its annual Top 20 list of consumer complaint categories in conjunction with National Consumer Protection Week. At the same time, Attorney General Rob McKenna acknowledged the division’s work in recovering $13 million for consumers through litigation, complaint mediation, and the Lemon Law program during the 2006-2006 fiscal year.
“We made excellent strides in enforcing a fair marketplace for both consumers and businesses last year,” McKenna said.
“In 2007, we passed laws to protect seniors from trust mill scams and allow consumers to reduce their risk of becoming identity theft victims by freezing their credit files. We filed our fifth case under the state’s Computer Spyware Act.
“We organized think tanks to find solutions to reduce mortgage fraud and foreclosure rescue scams and to protect Latino consumers from scams,” he continued, “and we reached 1,800 consumers and businesses with our statewide Guard-It Washington identity theft prevention tour.”
Top 20 Complaint Categories for 2007
3 Retail Sales
4 Electronic Shopping
5 Auto Sales
8 Books/Magazines & Directory Publishers
9 Credit Card Issuers
10 Cable Networks & Program Distribution
11 Auto Repair
12 Health Care
13 Commercial Banking
14 Mortgage Lending
15 Consumer Lending & Transfer Agents
16 Internet Service Providers
19 Online Auctions
For additional statistics and graphics, visit the Attorney General’s Web site at http://www.atg.wa.gov/FileAComplaint/TopComplaints.aspx.
Source: Washington AG
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