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

Date: February 22, 2011

Mortgage Issues Dominate 2010 Consumer Complaint List

(Boise) - The national foreclosure crisis, which hit Idaho especially hard, was the dominant consumer protection issue in 2010, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said today.  Wasden released his annual report on consumer protection activity during a news conference this morning. 

The Attorney General said complaints about loans topped the consumer complaint list for the year.  “We received 261 complaints in this category, compared to 109 the previous year, when it ranked 4th on the top ten list,” Attorney General Wasden said.  “To assist Idaho consumers who are dealing with mortgages and foreclosures, my office pursued several enforcement actions against deceptive loan modification companies, hired a housing counselor to assist Idaho homeowners, and implemented a public education program related to foreclosures, mortgage modifications, and purchasing a home.  Last week, we delivered to the legislature a comprehensive report on the impacts of the housing crisis within Idaho and steps that stakeholders may wish to consider for prevention of future problems.”

Wasden noted that the number of complaints about mortgage modification companies dropped by nearly 90%.  “In 2008, mortgage modifications were not on the radar screen,” Wasden said.  “In 2009, they were the number one complaint category, with more than 350 complaints filed.  Last year, we received only 38 complaints, and mortgage modifications dropped to number 6 on the list.  I believe that the significant decline in complaints is a result of our aggressive action to enforce Idaho law against the deceptive practices that were rampant in the loan modification industry.”

Other significant consumer protection activity included litigation and settlements with pharmaceutical manufacturers concerning the marketing and pricing of their drugs.  The Attorney General entered into three settlements last year, resulting in recovery of nearly $5 million.  Since 2005, the Attorney General has resolved eight “average wholesale price” cases with drug manufacturers, resulting in approximately $9.4 million recovered for Idaho taxpayers.  Three cases, naming 21 other drug manufacturers, are still pending.  The Attorney General alleges that the defendants in those cases falsely reported the “average wholesale price” of prescription drugs, resulting in excessive costs to Idaho Medicaid and Idaho taxpayers.

In 2010, the Attorney General recovered $5,920,578 in restitution, the second largest amount ever recovered by the Attorney General’s Office.  This equates to $10.18 for each taxpayer dollar appropriated for consumer operations. For the past 20 years, Idaho’s Attorneys General have recovered more money for Idaho residents and businesses than the Legislature has appropriated from the General Fund for consumer protection operations. The Attorney General also recovered $536,237 in civil penalties, fees and costs.

In addition, the state received $25,989,570 in 2010 pursuant to the tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) negotiated between the Office of the Attorney General and tobacco manufacturers in 1998.  To date, the state has received $280,569,373 under the MSA.

The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division logged 13,734 instances of consumer assistance in 2010.  Of those consumer contacts, 1,312 contacts were consumer complaints.  In 2010, Idaho consumers reported losses of $2,715,621. The remaining 12,422 consumer contacts consisted of receiving information from consumers, responding to consumers’ requests for information and forms, and answering consumer inquiries about particular businesses. 

The Attorney General transferred $6,084,700 in unspent consumer protection account funds to the General Fund during fiscal year 2010.  The Attorney General has transferred $14,539,129 to the General Fund from the consumer protection account since fiscal year 2000.

Read the Attorney General’s annual consumer protection reports for 2010 and previous years.

Play Listen to the news conference.

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