Attorney General Hardy Myers today announced the 2001 Top 10 Consumer Complaint List as part of the Oregon Department of Justice observance of National Consumer Protection Week, February 3-9, with "privacy" as its theme. Myers also today filed seven court actions against violators of the "No Call" Law that protects Oregonians from being disturbed by unsolicited telephone calls into their homes.
"Oregonians won't be surprised to hear that telecommunications is number one on our Top 10 Complaint List," Myers said. "Thousands of consumers are frustrated with being "slammed," and "crammed," and not being able to solve their problems without having to file complaints with law enforcement." "Slamming" is the practice of switching customers' long-distance carriers without their permission, and "cramming" is unexplained charges on phone bills for services never ordered, authorized, received or used. Justice opened 14,015 written consumer complaints in 2001.
The 2001 Top 10 Consumer Complaint List includes:
1. Telecommunications 1,905
2. No Call Violations 1,051
3. Financial Institutions 976
4. Motor Vehicle Sales 865
New Car Dealers 453
Used Car Dealers 350
RV, Trailer, Camper 62
5. Nigerian Money Transfer Scheme 549
6. Internet Auction 514
7. Sweepstakes/Lotteries 425
8. Auto Repair 312
9. Travel Related 305
10. Collection Agencies 287
Telecommunications has jumped from number two on the list in 2000 to number one in 2001 with an increase of over 500 complaints. Over 1,000 of the complaints are against long distance companies with an additional 437 on cellular phones and 294 on local telephone service.
Oregon's two-year old "No Call" law continues to be popular with more than 64,000 residents signing up to be on the "No Call" list and over 1,000 telemarketers subscribing to the list. The law prohibits telemarketers doing business in the state from calling residential phones listed on the Oregon "No Call" List with few exemptions.
Oregon's Department of Justice encourages consumers on the list to file complaints against companies who do not comply with the law. In 2001, 1,051 complaints were received, putting the No Call Violations number two on the list. This is a drop from 2000 when Justice received 1,359 complaints. In two years, Justice has obtained 117 court orders against "No Call" violators, who paid more than $400,000 to the consumer protection and education fund.
Today, Justice filed seven Assurances of Voluntary Compliance in the Circuit Courts of Multnomah, Marion and Lane counties against violators of the "No Call" law. They all paid money into the Justice consumer protection and education fund and are as follows:
Eric Thurman, Portland, dba Stainmasters, carpet cleaning
Mark Johnson, Eugene, dba Oregon Carpet Cleaning, Budget Carpet Cleaners, Stainmasters, carpet cleaning
Jewel's Five Star, Inc., Eugene, carpet cleaning
Michelle and Lyle Rankin, Corvallis, dba MK Global Enterprises, selling Herbalife marketing program
SVC-Pacific Group LLC, Lynnwood, Washington, marketing vacation packages
Emerald City Tours, Inc., Kent, Washington, travel company
Linda Campbell, Tigard, Cindy Cline and Olivia Bridges, both of Lake Oswego, dba Work From Home, selling Herbalife marketing program
Moving up on the Top Ten Complaint List was the category of Financial Institutions going from number five with 474 complaints in 2000 to number three with 976 complaints in 2001. This category includes credit card companies, commercial banking, consumer lending, real estate financing, sales financing and credit unions.
The motor vehicle sales category was back on the list after dropping off in 2000. In 2001, consumers filed 453 complaints against new car dealers, 350 against used car dealers and 62 complaints concerning the sale of RVs, trailers and campers.
First-timers on the complaint list were the Nigerian Money Transfer Scheme with 549 complaints and collection agencies with 287. The Nigerian scheme is over ten years old but "spiked" in 2000 with the scam picking up more variations from more countries and switching from residential and business mail to fax and email delivery.
One of the popular scenarios of the Nigerian scheme is a letter from the so-called president of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company wanting help in protecting the company's money during an uprising against the government. Consumers only have to "safe keep" millions in their bank accounts in order to receive several million back. Scammers ask for bank account and credit card numbers in order to complete the transactions. Some victims' bank accounts have been totally depleted and no money is ever received in return. Other victims are continually coerced into sending larger amounts of money supposedly for bribes, travel and even chemicals to wash marked currency. Justice shares complaint information with the FBI and Secret Service as part of a multi-country investigation.
Consumers wanting more information on the Top Ten Complaint List and the Oregon "No Call" program may call the Attorney General's consumer hotline at (503) 378-4320 (Salem area only), (503) 229-5576 (Portland area only) or toll-free at 1-877-877-9392. Justice is online at www.doj.state.or.us. Oregon "No Call" may be reached toll-free at 1-877-700-6622 and is online at www.ornocall.com. [UPDATE: The Oregon No Call web site is no longer operational. To sign up for the federal Do Not Call registry, go to www.donotcall.gov. And then add the hyperlink to www.donotcall.gov.]
Jan Margosian, (503) 947-4333 (media line only) firstname.lastname@example.org