Attorney General Hardy Myers today announced Oregon's Top 10 Consumer Complaint List for 2002 with telecommunications, "No Call" violations and financial institutions making up the top three categories for the second year in a row. Myers published the list in conjunction with the observance of National Consumer Protection Week, February 3-8.
The 2002 Top 10 Consumer Complaint List includes:
|2. No Call Violations||1,276
|3. Financial Institutions ||1,252
|4. Internet Auctions ||1,100
|5. Nigerian Money Transfer Scheme||1,097
|6. Magazine Subscription Agents||889
|7. Motor Vehicle Sales||844
New Car Dealers
Used Car Dealers
|8. Internet Retailers||488
|9. Auto Repair||423
|10. Collection Agencies||412
"More than 3,500 consumers complained to our office in 2002 about their local, long distance and cellular telephone services with 640 more upset about their Internet service providers and cable and satellite companies," Myers said. "For the third year in a row, the telecommunications industry has earned the ire of its customers by continuing to ignore their complaints."
In an effort to combat the continued practice of changing a customer's long distance service without their authorization (slamming), Myers has introduced Senate Bill 120. This bill would require telephone companies, when soliciting customers to change their local and long distance services, to clearly disclose the terms and conditions.
Although the number of "No Call" complaints has dropped each year as the Attorney General continues to vigorously prosecute violators, it remained number two on the complaint list. Oregonians joined the "No Call" List program in record numbers in 2002 marking 100,000 in December. As a rule, new "No Call" participants are more active in reporting unlawful calls.
Number three on the Top 10 Complaint List for the second year in a row is financial institutions. Consumers complained that their credit card bills contained unauthorized charges (cramming). They also found problems with real estate and sales financing and in the areas of consumer lending and commercial banking. The category under financial institutions with the smallest number of complaints is credit unions.
Internet auction complaints moved from number six to four as Oregon continues to be among the top three "most wired" states in the nation. Other Internet retailers made number eight.
Although complaints concerning the Nigerian Money Transfer Scheme almost doubled, it remained at the number five spot. The scheme, also known as 4-1-9 frauds (based on the section of the Nigerian penal code that addresses fraudulent activity), has many scenarios. Several include a high ranking Nigerian authority wanting to get millions of dollars out of the country, offering a large percentage for assistance with the transfer. In 2002, the state experienced an increase in these scams with residents being emailed at home and at their businesses.
Magazine subscription agents hit the complaint list for the first time at number six. Most of the nearly 900 complaints were filed against one company, American Consumer Publishing Association, Inc. of White City, doing business in Oregon as Publishers Services Exchange. Attorney General Myers sued the company in September 2001 alleging violations of the "simulated invoice" law. That lawsuit is currently pending.
Motor vehicle sales dropped from number four to seven with Internet retailers on the list for the first time at number eight. Auto repair dropped one number from eight to nine and collection agencies made number ten for the second year in a row.
Attorney General Myers is concerned about two other complaint areas that do not appear on the Top 10 Complaint List. The first being identity theft described by law enforcement as one of the fastest growing criminal activities in the United States and the second, email "spamming."
As an active member of an identity theft coalition comprised of state and federal government and representatives of financial institutions and Oregon retailers, Attorney General Myers is helping to coordinate both federal and state criminal law enforcement in identifying and prosecuting ID theft. An education program and state-wide reporting system are currently being considered.
The Department of Justice has proposed Senate Bill 121, a law to curb the fast growing "spamming" of email in both residential and business computers. Both consumers and business lose time and money as they spend hours deleting unwanted solicitations from their email.
Consumers wanting information about consumer protection services in Oregon may call the Attorney General's consumer hotline at (503) 378-4320 (Salem area only), (503) 229-5576 (Portland area only), and toll-free at 1-877-877-9392. Justice is online at www.doj.state.or.us.
Jan Margosian, (503) 947-4333 (media line only) firstname.lastname@example.org