For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Bob Cooper
(208) 334-4112

Date: February 26, 2004

Compliance With No Call Law Highlights Attorney General's Annual Consumer Protection Report

Consumer complaints about violations of Idaho's Do Not Call Law in 2003 declined 73 percent compared to 2001, the year the law took effect, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said. At the same time, the number of Idaho telephone numbers registered on the Attorney General's No Call List has surpassed one-quarter million. The Attorney General's Office received only 404 consumer complaints alleging No Call Law violations in 2003. By comparison, the office received 1,481 such complaints in 2001.

"These numbers again indicate that the majority of telemarketers are working hard to comply with Idaho law," Attorney General Wasden said. "Their efforts, in turn, have provided thousands of Idaho families with welcome relief from unwanted telephone solicitations." Wasden attributed the increase in registrations to the new federal no call list and the elimination of the registration fee for the Idaho list.

Wasden released the annual report of his office's Consumer Protection Unit during a news conference today. The Attorney General also announced that his office will focus on identity theft as its top consumer education priority for 2004.

Despite the significant drop in complaints about No Call Law violations, the category "Telephone Solicitations" held the number one position on the annual Top Ten Consumer Complaints List. The category includes No Call Law complaints and other complaints about telephone solicitations. The Telephone Solicitations category has held the number one position for 4 consecutive years. Only three categories on the list saw an increase in complaints in 2003: motor vehicles, construction and collection agencies. The remaining categories saw a decrease in complaints from 2002.

TOP TEN CONSUMER COMPLAINTS FOR 2003

  1. Telephone Solicitations
  2. Telecommunications
  3. Internet
  4. Motor vehicles
  5. Mail order sale
  6. Construction
  7. Collection Agencies
  8. Credit Cards
  9. Retail Store Sales
  10. Electronic Equipment/Service

627
351
229
174
98
96
85
81
68
57

ENFORCEMENT ACTIVITY

The Attorney General's Office recovered and returned to consumers more than $1.5 million in restitution during the year. The recoveries came in settlements with companies including H & R Block, Wal-Mart, Bristol Myers Squibb, and Peoples Benefit Services. The office recovered more than $3.27 in restitution for each taxpayer dollar spent on consumer protection.

The Attorney General continued to enforce Idaho's tobacco settlement and related statutes. During the year, the office filed seven lawsuits and obtained judgments and settlements with 22 tobacco manufacturers and Idaho tax-stamping agents.

Efforts to prevent underage smoking resulted in an agreement with Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. to implement new policies at Sam's Club stores in Idaho and throughout the country. The agreement, the result of an ongoing multi-state effort, is similar to agreements in previous years with Walgreens, and gas stations operated under the Exxon, Mobil, and BP brand names.

The Attorney General settled several price fixing cases, that will result in $2.3 million for Idaho consumers and businesses. One price fixing case involving vitamin manufacturers provided more than $1.2 million for health related programs, including more than $250,000 in grants to 80 senior citizen centers throughout Idaho. Other settlements ended anticompetitive practices involving several brand name drugs and music CDs.

CONSUMER EDUCATION

The Attorney General's consumer protection staff completed translating consumer education materials into Spanish. Eleven brochures are available, in Spanish, on the Attorney General's Internet homepage. A grant from a previous settlement paid for the translations.

Wasden said that his Consumer Protection Unit will focus consumer education efforts for 2004 on identify theft.

"The Federal Trade Commission recently reported that it received 493 identity theft related complaints from Idaho residents last year," Wasden said. "Although my office does not have authority to prosecute or investigate identity theft crimes, we want to educate Idahoans to both prevent identity theft and help victims recover from its after effects."

Wasden encouraged Idahoans to review the "Identity Theft" publication available on the Consumer Protection section of his Internet site. Consumer Protection personnel are available as speakers on identity theft and will provide information on the subject at several fairs in Idaho this fall.

- End -

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