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Telecommunications companies top list for most complaints
The Washington State Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division (CPD) received 1,581 complaints about telecommunications companies in the state in 2011, making it the top industry that consumers felt were wronging them.
Collection agencies, which held the top spot in 2010, came in second with 1,577 complaints filed, while broadband service providers rounded out the top three with 1,363 complaints.
"The fact that collection agencies and mortgage lenders (#7, 893 complaints) continue to generate so many complaints is a reminder that too many people are struggling during these tough times," said Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna. "That's one of the big reasons we're proud to have saved consumers more than $4 million in 2011, through free mediation. That extra money makes a difference in peoples' lives."
According to the Attorney General's office, the CPD is aimed at fostering "a fair, competitive and non-deceptive marketplace." The state's consumer watchdog group handles an average of 40,000 calls a year, deals with nearly 450 walk-in consumers annually, and processes more than 23,000 written complaints yearly.
Rounding out the top 10 complaint generators were retail (#4, 1,116), auto sales (#5, 985), commercial banking (#6, 914), the aforementioned mortgage lenders, books/magazines and directories (#8, 759), electronic shopping (#9, 623) and health care (#10, 500).
Tracking these numbers lets the CPD get an idea of which industries seem to be having issues. According to the CPD, successive years of hundreds of complaints about DISH Network led to a $6 million settlement in 2009. The CPD notes that complaints regarding mortgage lenders and foreclosure practices are being particularly scrutinized right now.
"Complaints coming into our CRCs (consumer resource centers) can be an early warning system, focusing us on areas that demand attention," said CPD chief Doug Walsh. "Other times, complaints help bolster current cases targeted at stopping the greatest harm to the marketplace."
Consumers can files complaints at www.atg.wa.gov.